The Feast of Saint Patrick – Patron Saint of Ireland

Saint_St_Patrick_Enlightener_of_Ireland_Hand-Painted_Orthodox_Icon_2_2Today is the feast of Saint Patrick, today we celebrate his sainthood, and the ascendance to heaven of a British man, of Roman heritage, who lived sometime between the fourth and fifth centuries CE.

Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but he was not Irish at all, he was a Roman of the Patrician class, from a family of rank, and privilege.

Patrick (Patricius) is credited with converting the people of Erin to faith in the Universal Church, the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, in so doing he separated the Celtic people from their Gaelic traditions, and subordinated them to the Catholic Church in Rome.

It is no wonder that he was named a saint for this, Patricius.

He won with the Word what could not be accomplished by through war, by sword and spear, by fire and blood.

It should be noted that Saint Patrick has never been canonized, or even beatified not by any Pope. Therefore Patrick is not officially a Saint of the Catholic Church, and nevertheless, he is recognized in the annals of the Saints of the Church of England, I hope that all my Irish kinfolk appreciate the irony of this.

It is worthy of song.

History tells us that Patrick was a humble man, a rare quality for those of rank. History also tells us that he proofed the plan of spreading the faith by converting Irish chieftains first. Patrick was a politician of great skill. Every missionary who followed him, emulated this method.

He spread the faith, he established churches and he earned the rank of Apostle, by popular acclamation.

History tells us that his mother was a relative of Saint Martin of Tours, the patron Saint of Soldiers, Saint Martin of the Sword whose biography was written by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, but we know that was a work of pure fiction. Saint Martin never lived, even so, his story gave license for Christians to become soldiers, to serve in the army, and as such it brought the Roman legions into the fold.

Patrick was said to have had “heroic piety,” praying day and night, in the mountains and the woods, he prayed through the rain, and through storms of snow and ice, he should be the patron saint of post men if this were true, but then again…all hagiographies are lies.

His story tells us that he spent six years as a captive and servant to a Celtic Chieftain, the Druid named Milchu in Dalriada, where he mastered the language of the common folk and learned all of their stories.

However, if you appreciate history you will know that it is much more likely that he fled his home to wander abroad in order to escape the duties that were expected of him as the son of a nobleman. Such departures were common in his time, they were referred to as the “flight of the curiales.” Patrick was no captive at all, he was a boy running from his responsibilities.

Rather than being taken captive it is more likely that he paid for asylum in Milchu’s house, and that he paid for the services of tutors to help him learn the language.

The Druids were great teachers and oral historians that much is true.

The story of his escape (if it was in fact an escape from servitude), and subsequent journey were of his own account. He cast the entire experience in dramatic, even biblical terms, they served both to cover up his crime of abnegation, and also to establish his fame.

It is said that Patrick escaped from Milchu and then fled to the mainland of Europe where he entered the priesthood and became a missionary. On his return to Ireland however, the first place he went was to his former home in Dalriada. Where, after some period of conflict with his former captor (or patron) and the affectation of some miracles on Patrick’s part, Milchu immolated himself to make way for the upstart, throwing himself on a fire after burning the collected scrolls and mysteries of his people.

This event may be seen in metaphorical terms as Milchu offering himself as a human sacrifice, at the foundation of the church in Ireland.

That’s how Patrick wrote it.

In reality. the whole episode denotes the ritual destruction of the Celtic people in favor of the ascending Romano-British invaders.

On Easter Sunday, 433 a conflict of will ensued between Patrick and the Celtic Arch-Druid Lochru, historians mythologized it as a battle of divine forces like the contest between Moses and the Egyptians, or Elijah and priests of Baal, and it ended with Saint Patrick magically hurling Lochru into the air, and breaking him to pieces on a sharp rock.

It was another ritual murder at the foundation of the Irish Church, another human sacrifice to be sure. There is no other way to read this, it was a good old-fashioned Roman slaughter.

On a side note, while speaking of his vaunted magic powers, not to be outdone by Jesus, this same Patrick was said to have been able to raise the dead.

It should be noted the Columbanus, who was the most significant representative of the Irish Catholic Church after the Dark Ages, who lived and wrote and sent missionaries from Ireland to Continental Europe, building Churches and founding religious communities, makes no mention of Saint Patrick in his writing, not once, not anywhere, Columbanus tells us that the Church in Ireland was founded by a man named Palladius.

The entire legend of Saint Patrick is little more than a myth designed to subordinate the Irish heart to a British noble of Roman descent, and a fictitious one at that.

Be mindful when you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day!
Revised 2020.03.17

Given First 2018.03.17

Presidents Day – Presidents Speak for Themselves, a Reflection

Presidents Speak for Themselves
A Reflection
Presidents are human beings.

They have all been men (so far), flawed men, everyone who has ever held the office, has been flawed. Some have had heroic attributes. All of them have had craven moments.

There have only been forty-four of them, until now, now we are living through the chaotic and criminal presidency of the 45th.

A couple of other presidents have barely made it into office, only a handful have won the office while failing to earn the popular vote, the 45th is one of them.

The forty-third was appointed by the Supreme Court, it was the first time that ever happened. Nevertheless, all of our presidents have legitimately held the office…until now.

Today the occupant of the oval office, the forty-fifth person to do so Is Donald J. Trump. When he took the oath of office I was prepared to accept him, even though he lost the popular vote. I was prepared to accept him, but I quickly realized that I could not, because there is certain intrigue surrounding his victory that has tainted it for all time. There was foreign interference by the Russians, the conspiracy of his campaign to collude with them and defraud the people of the United States. There was other domestic malfeasance such as; voter suppression, and other shadow campaigns, by actual candidates, and run by anonymous groups on social media platforms that took from the majority of the people the candidate that they preferred.

I was prepared to accept him, just as I had accepted Regan, and Bush who were also elected to the highest office, without my support, or my enthusiasm, or my vote.

I accepted them because I believed that they would uphold the rule of law (even though plenty of illegal things were done during their administration, done in their name and in the name of the American people).

Despite the flaws of those Presidents I believed they would support the American system, the separation of powers, the separation of Church and State, the freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.

By and large, they did.

The forty-fifth president has not, and will not.

Donald Trump is seeking to undermine the courts, at every turn. He actively undermines our institutions and works to undermine the rule of law. He continues to solicit foreign interference in our elections, and he has turned the instruments of law enforcement against his political rivals.

He dismantles our alliances, pulling out of treaties, starting trade wars, usurping the powers of Congress, and lying through his teeth, to the American people, about what he is doing and what his motives are.

His has declared National Emergency so that he can manage his political problem. He has assumed emergency powers, this is the path to a dictatorship.

This weekend he referred to himself as our king.

He must be stopped.

Consider George Washington, did you know that the city of Cincinnati was named after him. Cincinnati was named after Washington, in his day our first President was affectionately called “The Modern Cincinnatus,” a Roman general from the time of the Early Republic, (c. 519 – c. 430 BCE), who was granted emergency powers by the Senate of Rome, twice, so that he could defend the Republic. He was given the title Imperator and given supreme authority, and on both occasions, upon the resolution of his mission, he laid that power down.

In the same way George Washington set the standards for all future presidents, by refusing to be called anything other than Mr. President, eschewing such titles as Highness, Majesty, Excellency. He served two terms, then he laid down the gauntlet of power, suggesting that to hold power longer would lead the country to an imperial presidency.

Forty-five presidencies later, we are faced with the criminal and corrupt regime of Donald J. Trump.

It is the duty of any person who has ever sworn the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, to oppose this man and his criminal regime right now.
He has called the free press an enemy of the people.

This kind of rhetoric makes him a threat to the Republic. The power of his office makes him a threat to humankind

Donald Trump should listen to the words of these presidents, and we should listen to him. We should take seriously the things he says and does in our name.

The words of the presidents:

1st George Washington (Two Terms)
“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter…reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”
A Real President – April 30, 1789 – March 4th, 1797

2nd John Adams
“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1797 – March 4th, 1801

3rd Thomas Jefferson (Two Terms)
“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1801 – March 4th, 1809

4th James Madison (Two Terms)
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
A Real President – March 4, 1809 – March 4th, 1817

5th James Monroe (Two Terms and Last of the Founders)
“Free people seldom intrigue together; because there is no motive for it. Between the leaders however of a free people, and the neighboring monarchs, such intrigues have often taken place, and always will take place, whilst liberty is odious to monarchs, and men can be found base enough to betray her.”
A Real President – March 4, 1817 – March 4th, 1825

6th John Quincy Adams (Lost the Popular Vote)
“The freedom of the press should be inviolate.”
President – March 4, 1825 – March 4th, 1829

7th Andrew Jackson (Two Terms)
“As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of persons and of property, liberty of conscience, and of the press, it will be worth defending.”
March 4th, 1829 – March 4th, 1837

8th Martin Van Buren
“There is a power in public opinion in this country – and I thank God for it: for it is the most honest and best of all powers – which will not tolerate an incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens.”:
A Real President – March 4th, 1837 – March 4th, 1841

9th William Henry Harrison
“There is no part of the means placed in the hands of the Executive which might be used with greater effect for unhallowed purposes than the control of the public press. The maxim which our ancestors derived from the mother country that “the freedom of the press is the great bulwark of civil and religious liberty” is one of the most precious legacies which they have left us. We have learned, too, from our own as well as the experience of other countries, that golden shackles, by whomsoever or by whatever pretense imposed, are as fatal to it as the iron bonds of despotism. The presses in the necessary employment of the Government should never be used “to clear the guilty or to varnish crime.” A decent and manly examination of the acts of the Government should be not only tolerated, but encouraged.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1841 – April 4th, 1841

10th John Tyler
“The guaranty of religious freedom, of the freedom of the press, of the liberty of speech, of the trial by jury, of the habeas corpus…will be enjoyed by millions yet unborn…”
A Real President – April 4th, 1841 – March 4th, 1845

11th James K. Polk
”Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between Church and State, and that in my action as President of the United States I recognized no distinction of creeds in my appointments office.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1845 – March 4th, 1849

12th Zachary Taylor
“As American freemen, we cannot but sympathize in all efforts to extend the blessings of civil and political liberty, but at the same time, we are warned by the admonitions of history and the voice of our own beloved Washington to abstain from entangling alliances with foreign nations.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1849 – July 9th, 1849

13th Millard Fillmore
“The law is the only sure protection of the weak, and the only efficient restraint upon the strong.”
“Church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact – religion and politics should not be mingled.”
A Real President – July 9th, 1850 – March 4th, 1853

14th Franklin Pierce
“While men inhabiting different parts of this vast continent cannot be expected to hold the same opinions, they can unite in a common objective and sustain common principles.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1853 – March 4th, 1857

15th James Buchanan
“The country is indebted for the clause prohibiting Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the right of petition. To this we are also indebted for the bill of rights which secures the people against any abuse of power by the Federal Government.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1857 – March 4th, 1861
16th Abraham Lincoln (Assassinated, Ended Slavery)
“Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of [our] population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing-presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend upon it, this government cannot last. By such things the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it, and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak to make their friendship effectual. At such a time, and under such circumstances, men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric which for the last half century has been the fondest hope of the lovers of freedom throughout the world.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1861 – April 15th, 1865

17th Andrew Johnson (Impeached)
“Notwithstanding a mendacious press; notwithstanding a subsidized gang of hirelings who have not ceased to traduce me, I have discharged all my official duties and fulfilled my pledges.”
Impeached President – April 15th, 1865 – March 4th, 1869

18th Ulysses S. Grant (Two Terms)
“Let us labor to add all needful guarantees for the more perfect security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1869 – March 4th, 1877

19th Rutherford B. Hayes (Lost the Popular Vote)
“I am not liked as a President by the politicians in office, in the press, or in Congress. But I am content to abide the judgment the sober second thought of the people.”
“But at the basis of all prosperity, for that as well as for every other part of the country, lies the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the people. Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education. To this end, liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools by the State governments, and, if need be, supplemented by legitimate aid from national authority.”
President – March 4th, 1877 – March 4th, 1881

20th James A. Garfield (Assassinated)
“In the long, fierce struggle for freedom of opinion, the press, like the Church, counted its martyrs by thousands.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1881 – September, 1881

21st Chester A. Arthur
“If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth.”
A Real President – September 19th, 1881 – March 4th, 1885

22nd and 24th Grover Cleveland (Elected Twice, Serving Two Non-consecutive Terms)
“Officeholders are the agents of the people, not their masters. Not only is their time and labor due to the government, but they should scrupulously avoid in their political action, as well as in the discharge of their official duty, offending by a display of obtrusive partisanship their neighbors who have relations with them as public officials.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1885 – March 4th, 1889, March 4th, 1893 – March 4th, 1897

23rd Benjamin Harrison (Lost the Popular Vote)
“God forbid that the day should ever come when, in the American mind, the thought of man as a ‘consumer’ shall submerge the old American thought of man as a creature of God, endowed with ‘unalienable rights’.”
President – March 4th, 1889 – March 4th, 1893

25th William McKinley (Assassinated)
“Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and everywhere respected and obeyed. We may have failed in the discharge of our full duty as citizens of the great Republic, but it is consoling and encouraging to realize that free speech, a free press, free thought, free schools, the free and unmolested right of religious liberty and worship, and free and fair elections are dearer and more universally enjoyed to-day than ever before. These guaranties must be sacredly preserved and wisely strengthened. The constituted authorities must be cheerfully and vigorously upheld.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1897 – September 14th, 1901

26th Theodore Roosevelt (Two Terms)
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
A Real President – September 19th, 1901 – March 4th, 1909

27th William Howard Taft
“The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1909 – March 4th, 1913

28th Woodrow Wilson (Oversaw the end of Women’s Sufferage)
“Publicity is one of the purifying elements of politics. Nothing checks all the bad practices of politics like public exposure.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1913 – March 4th 1921

29th Warren G. Harding
“We must not abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, or the freedom of assembly because there is no promise in repression.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1921 – August 2nd, 1923

30th Calvin Coolidge
“The freedom of the human mind is recognized in the right to free speech and free press. The public schools have made education possible for all and ignorance a disgrace.”
A Real President – August 2nd, 1923 – March 4th, 1929

31st Herbert Hoover
“Absolute freedom of the press to discuss public questions is a foundation stone of American liberty.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1929 – March 4th, 1933

32nd Franklin D. Roosevelt (Four Terms)
“Freedom of conscience, of education, or speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1933 – April 12th, 1945

33rd Harry S. Truman (Two Terms)
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
A Real President – April 12th, 1945 – January 20th, 1953

34th Dwight D. Eisenhower (Two Terms – Hero of the Second World War)
“Censorship, in my opinion, is a stupid and shallow way of approaching the solution to any problem. Though sometimes necessary, as witness a professional and technical secret that may have a bearing upon the welfare and very safety of this country, we should be very careful in the way we apply it, because in censorship always lurks the very great danger of working to the disadvantage of the American nation.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1953 – January 20th, 1961

35th John F. Kennedy (Assassinated)
“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law-maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment–the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution–not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1961 – November 22nd, 1963
36th Lyndon B. Johnson (Two Terms, Passed the Civil Rights Act)
“Democracy is a constant tension between truth and half-truth and, in the arsenal of truth, there is no greater weapon than fact.”
A Real President – November 22nd, 1963 – January 20th 1969

37th Richard Nixon (Two Terms, Resigned)
“You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” ~ Last press conference before resignation…
Resigned the Presidency amid Charges of Corruption and Obstruction of Justice
January 20th, 1969 – August 9th, 1974

38th Gerald Ford (Un-elected)
“I believe in the first amendment and the absolute necessity of a free press.”
President – August 9th, 1974 – January 20th 1977

39th Jimmy Carter
“When people are intimidated about having their own opinions, oppression is at hand.”
“We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities – not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1977 – January 20th, 1981

40th Ronald Reagan (Two Terms)
“The First Amendment was not written to protect people and their laws from religious values. It was written to protect those values from government tyranny.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1981 – January 20th, 1989

41st George H. W. Bush
We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1989 – January 20th, 1993

42nd Bill Clinton (Two Terms, Impeached but not Removed)
“The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1993 – January 20th, 2001

43rd George W. Bush (Two Terms, Lost the Popular Vote in the First)
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy…that we need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”
A Real President – January 20th, 2001 – January, 20th 2009

44th Barack Obama (Two Terms)
“We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech — because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.”
A Real President – January 20th, 2009 – January 20th, 2017

45th Donald Trump (Lost the Popular Vote, Elected with the Aid of a Foreign Adversary, Impeached but not Removed)
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, AABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
A Fake President, Failing – January 20th, 2017 – One year and one month in, and it cannot be over soon enough.

These words speak for themselves. One of these quotes is not like the others.

The despot uttered it should be removed from office, not because he made this statement, but for this sentiment and his many other crimes.

Vote him out of office, it is the only way to save the Republic.

Remember This:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
– U.S. Constitution, First Amendment

Saint Valentine’s Day

Jennifer is she
Bright as a morning in May
Sensual and sweet

A light in the dark
My warming breeze in winter
February’s love

Freckles, and green eyes
Her flashing smile lights my heart
As the sun in spring

Clear as the bright stream
Swift as the rising moon, cool
In the evening

She listens to me
Sheltering my hopes, and dreams
Believing in me

She is strong, and fierce
I lean on her when I’m tired
And she carries me

Six years of loving
Kind and caring Valentine
Jennifer is she

Martin Luther King Day 2020 – Monday, January 20th

Today we celebrate the life and work of the Reverend Doctor, Martin Luther King Jr., a man who fulfilled the role of prophet in our time, as a voice of conscience, and like so many prophets before him he was killed for speaking the truth.

Martin Luther King was a prophet, not in the sense that he saw the future (though he did), that is not what a prophet does. A prophet is not a seer, or an augurer. He was not a prophet in the sense that he had a unique channel to God, the creator of the universe, or that God spoke to him in a privileged way.

God speaks to all of us in the same way, and that is one of the things that the Reverend Doctor spoke to us about, the responsibility we all have to listen to the demands of our conscience when we here it speaking to our hearts.

Martin Luther King had no more and no less access to supernatural powers than any of us, what made him different was that he chose to listen.

He listened to the voice of God that speaks to each and every one of us. He heard the voice of God and he responded to the call by cleaving to the message and sharing it with the world.

He loved mercy, he worked for justice and he walk humbly, as an example to us all.

There are many memes circulating today of the good Reverend Doctor, memes like the picture I have pasted at the beginning of this essay.

Today we are given countless opportunities to reflect on his likeness, to consider his words, to reflect on their meaning and on the life of an American Saint (if there ever was one), and we are wise to do so.

We are wise to remember the man, Martin Luther King Jr., a rare person whose measure exceeded the ordinary flaws that make us all human, he lived beyond them.

Martin Luther King Jr. transcended even death, though he was taken by the assassin’s bullet. He lives now in our collective consciousness, our collective conscience, in our global psyche, speaking to us from the dimension of myth; a human being who was more than human, a child of God, a man overflowing with grace and wisdom, sharing its cup so that upon drinking we may aspire to do the same.

He spoke truth to power, and offered hope to the powerless, and he was murdered for it.

He was once considered by the director of the F.B.I. to be the most dangerous man in America, and from that status he became our most beloved hero, the prime exemplar of what it means to be an American.

He was beaten and arrested dozens of times for the crime of seeking justice.

His life was threatened daily. His reputation was smeared without regard for the truth, or appreciation for his selfless works.

He was killed for his efforts, shot down, but not destroyed.

He was, and continues to be an example to us all.

Our prophet, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. still points the way, lighting the long journey that still lies ahead of us, a journey toward justice that will not be denied.

mlk

New Year’s Day 2020 – A Holiday Reflection

Today is a day of beginnings.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct, the Princess Irulan said, in her biography of Muad’Dib

A small miscalculation at the outset, a subtle deviation from the plan, will cause you to miss your mark by a wide margin. It may cause you to never reach your end, or to end in a place you never intended to be.

Great care must be taken at the beginning.

Be mindful of your aim.

Today it is a day of resolutions.

Doing is being, is what Ray Bradbury said:

To have done is not enough.
You cannot lie about, and lie about the things you might just do someday.
But do, and win the game.

Great things are accomplished (and by great I mean great on any scale; socially, professionally, personally, spiritually, privately), great things are arrived at, built, discovered, in a series of small, regular and consistent steps.

With the steady application of effort, we can learn to do, and we can do just about anything.

Resolve to do something; be resolute.

Know this, if life is a river, it is a confluence of contradictions.

The process is just as important as the goal.

The archer is not only concerned with the object of her aim, but with the drawing of her bow, with the tension in the string and movement of her goal.

We must be prepared.

2020 marks the end of an era in American vision and the American experiment. The assault on truth, and the understanding of what truth is has finally undone its relevance to the social order.

It is doubtful that we can return to it.

Like the beast in the Book of Revelation, we have turned power over to the father of lies.

In 2020 we will put the liar on trial for abusing his power, for conspiring with our adversaries, he will be acquitted by his allies, and they will all lie some more, in the hope of continuing their grip on power.

We may hope for the future of America’s promise, and the extension of the promise to the whole world, but all we may have is hope…

Compassion, accountability, charity, honesty, integrity to call for these things is to speak to the wind, we hear them like voices crying out in the wilderness, lost in the din of madness.

Today is the first day, it is a day for unity and finding common purpose.

We will need to stand together if we are going to put an end to the madness, but our house is divided.

Today is the first day, it is a day for unity and finding common purpose.

We will need to stand together and support one another if we are going to advance the common good, but our house is divided, and those who are seeking to step up as champions, to lead the charge against destroyer are tearing each other down and lying to make themselves heard.

We are undone.

New Year’s Eve 2019

When the music’s over…turn out the lights.

Everything has its time, every-thing comes to end, such is the nature of things.

From the smallest grain of sand to the largest galaxy; from the tiniest of ambitions to the dreams of dynasties. Everything has its moment, and then those moments are gone.

They are done.

We mark the end of things on this, the final day of the year. We celebrate their completion, or their continuance if they are carried over into the next year.

We come to the hard stop, and then we start anew.

When the music’s over…turn out the lights.

I look back on the past year and see the end of many things, many people, some friends and some family, so many beings…some inspired me, others I was reviled by.

Count the dead and bless them all.

They met the hard stop, and they continue as something…

Turn out the lights.

Do you remember our republic?

We lost that, the great American experiment is done. Perhaps it never was?

That is for someone else to say, but if we did not lose the thing itself, then we lost something else, the potential for a better world, one governed by the people, for the people, a government of the people, a society of law; the arc of justice, as Martin called it, its trajectory has faltered and failed.

It has been replaced by oligarchs and autocrats. The mob has proven Plato right.
There is no pity for fools.

Turn out the lights.

Drink a cup of good cheer, eat trifles, languish in the comfort of amusements.

Turn out the lights.

Ring the bell and drop the ball.

The glass will chip and shatter.

This is the end, the end is here.

On Jesus and Mithra et al…A Holiday Reflection

Everything we know about Jesus is tangled in myth. The narrative of his birth and childhood are a complete fiction. Even the narrative of his adult ministry, beginning around the year 30 CE, is imbued with metaphor and allegory, so much so that none of it is reliable as history.

The narrative that we have received from the tradition is so thoroughly syncretized to the broader cultural context of the Near East that we do not even refer to him by his given name; Joshua son of Joseph, instead we call him by a Greek variant that ignores his genealogy, calling him Jesus of Nazareth instead.

If we desire to understand this story (as we should), if we desire to understand how it came to be in the form we have received it in, then we must engage that broader narrative. We must engage the complete societal and theological context from which the Christian myth emerged. We must journey beyond the Palestinian crossroads that was ancient Judea, we must go beyond the Greco-Roman world, the great Pan-Hellenic civilization, and we must go to Persia. That is where the story begins, with the hero Mithra.

The “Cult of Mithras” is understudied by historians. It is commonly regarded by scholars as merely one of many religious movements that competed with the early Christian Church for the devotion of the masses.

The Cult of Mithras was much more than that.

Mithraic worship, as it was practiced by the Romans, (principally by members of the Roman army) in the first four centuries of the common era, has its roots in ancient Persia. It is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism (c. 700 BCE), evolving through the centuries until it reached its final form as a “mystery cult” within the Roman army.

Throughout its evolution, and propelled by the extensive influence of the Persian Empire, Mithraism had a significant impact on every society it encountered, and on every form of worship in the Mediterranean region, the Near East and Southwest Asia.

This essay is an attempt to communicate the multiple ways by which Mithraism has influenced the development of other faith traditions, but most importantly the Judea-Christian tradition, and most significantly our beliefs about Jesus, including the mystery of his birth.

Scholarship on Mithraism is scant. Most research tends to downplay the connection between the form of Mithraism that was practiced by the Roman army, and the ancient form of Mithraism that was practiced in the heart of Persia. To justify this, scholars will site some obvious iconographic and liturgical differences between the two forms of worship, as if to say that the presence of a few notable, but nevertheless subtle differences is enough evidence to argue for a complete separation and distinction between the traditions. These conclusions are commonly drawn despite the greater number of obvious similarities between them.

The following paragraph from David Ulansey’s book The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries illustrates this point clearly. He says:

“The Western mystery cult of Mithraism as it appeared in the Roman Empire derived its very identity from a number of characteristics which were completely absent from the Iranian worship of Mithra: a series of initiations into ever higher levels of the cult accompanied by strict secrecy about the cult’s doctrines; the distinctive cave like temples in which the cult’s devotees met; and, most important, the iconography of the cult, in particular the tauroctony. None of these essential characteristics of Western Mithraism were to be found in the Iranian worship of Mithra. ”

Some of Ulansey’s predecessors have suggested that the differences between the Persian-Iranian form of Mithraism and that of the Roman army are the product of natural transformations that occur in all belief systems as they move from one culture to another across great expanses of geography and time.

They are correct.

Ulansey’s particular criticisms have to do with extrinsic matters of form and ritual activity, the types of structures that we would expect to change over time and distance, as they incorporate the experiences of descending generations of their adherents in them.

The seven stages of initiation, the tauroctony (slaying of the bull), the codes of secrecy, and the type of temple worship have little to do with the central tenets of Mithraism, the closely held beliefs that had existed within the doctrine from the earliest times in Persia, through its final incarnation as a Roman mystery cult. The central teaching remains the same, the most significant of which are; a belief in the immortality of the soul, and the notion of personal salvation.

In the ancient Persian form Mithraism; Mithra is a demi-god. He is viewed as the incarnated scion of Ahura-Mahzda, and Ahura-Mahzda is believed to be the source of all goodness, creator of the Universe, a God of light and source of all-life.

Some scholars believe that in its original form; Mithraism was strictly monotheistic (perhaps the first truly monotheistic belief system), holding that Ahura-Mahzda was the only deity, and that there were no others.

However, if Mithraism was originally monotheistic, at some point in its early evolution the belief system devolved into dualism. Mithraic doctrine established the existence of another deity, as a counterpart to Ahura-Mahzda, and together they formed a pantheon of sorts.

This secondary deity was given the name Angra-Mainyu (from whose name we have derived the term anger). Angra-Mainyu was believed to be the “uncreated” source of evil in the world, whose agency was cast n diametric opposition to the light and life of Ahura-Mahzda.

This dualistic view of reality suggested that the drama of our lives on Earth is a reflection of the struggle between these two cosmic powers. This clearly defined dualism would be of great relevance to both Judaism and Christianity in the centuries to come.

In the later form of Mithraism, that of the Roman Empire, the demi-god Mithra is depicted in that same relationship to the high God as in the Persian form. In this cultural context, the high God is given the name Sol Invictus and is iconographically represented as the sun. Mithra is the hero, demi-god and the offspring of Sol, incarnated son.

While this form of Mithraic worship is best understood as belonging to Rome, it should be noted that the cult of Sol Invictus, was also prevalent in Gaul prior to the Roman conquest of the Celts.

In both the ancient Persian form of Mithraism and the Roman form of Mithraism, the demi-god Mithra is seen as being sent to Earth by the deity responsible for the creation of the universe. In the former tradition this is Ahura-Mahzda, in the latter tradition this is Sol Invictus.

In the Roman form of Mithraism the purpose of sending Mithra to Earth is for him to slay the “Primal Bull.” Upon slaying the bull, Mithra and Sol Invictus feast together from its flesh. This feast has the effect that Mithra and Sol become con-joinedbecause they have dined together, they are now “one.”

Sol and Mithra are joined together as one being with coextensive attributes, each sharing the title Invictus, meaning unconquered. In Roman Mithraism this meal was considered to be the effective means of salvation for all human beings, and that by participating in a recreation of the sacred meal, properly sequenced through the rites of initiation, the individual would become one with Mithra and therefore one with Sol Invictus, thereby gaining access to the heavenly worlds of the afterlife. This is nearly identical to the Christian theology underpinning the sacrament of Communion.

As I indicated earlier in my reference to Ulansey’s work, Persian Mithraism did not depict Mithra as the “bull-slayer.” The narrative from Persia is as follows:

Mithra does not kill the primal-bull, rather Mithra and the bull are sent to Earth by Ahura-Mahzda, where they are assailed by the “evil-one,” Angra-Mainyu, who himself slays Mithra and the bull together in an act of violence.

Then Angra-Mainyu attempts to destroy Mithra and the bull utterly, but his efforts are frustrated by Ahura-Mazda. Through Ahura-Mazda’s power, stalks of wheat and the grape vine spring from the carcass of the bull. All manner of good things and good creatures flow from the god of light, through the bull to fill and populate the created world, so that those good things and creatures may be used for the benefit of human beings.

Ahura-Mahzda trasforms the violence of Angra-Mainyu into a new creation. New life springs from the bull, and Mithra is restored, returning to Ahura-Mahzda in the heavens.

There is no significant discrepancy between these two forms of the myth.

In both versions of the myth, Mithra is sent to Earth by a god of greater authority than himself.

In both versions of the myth, the bull is slain and its death is productive; both of new life, and of all good things on the Earth.

In the Roman version of the myth, the slaying of the bull is an explicit sacrifice.

In the Persian version of the myth, the intentionality of the sacrifice is implicit.

The Roman version is not etiological, it does not address the origins of life on Earth, the Persian version is.

The Roman version is primarily a teleological myth having to do with human destiny, salvation, and the life of the immortal soul, it is teleological and eschatological, insofar as it address the final resolution of evil in the world, and the end to conflict. The Persian version balances these two concerns.

In the Persian account, Mithra and the Bull are sent to Earth by the creator deity; their death is a vehicle by which the drama of life on Earth begins, making it a cosmogonic myth of origins.

The death of Mithra and the primal-bull, while being the result of violence perpetrated by the “evil-one” does not serve the interest of Angra-Mainyu, but serves the interest of Ahura-Mahzda instead.

Mithra does not die. His soul is immortal, and he returns to the heavens.

From the body of the bull comes an abundance of life, demonstrating that Ahura-Mahzda is greater than Angra-Mainyu, greater because the god of light not only has the power to create goodness sui generous (in itself), but also has the power to bring good out of evil; making the fruit of the labor of Angra-Mainyu effectively nothing. This profound hope is apparent within the structure of myth itself.

In both the Roman and the Persian versions of the myth, the death of the primal bull is emblematic of life for the world.

It is the creation of life itself, and it is life restored.

The principal actor in both versions of the myth is the creator god, figured as either Ahura-Mahzda, or Sol Invictus in their respective cultures.

Whether it is Mithra who kills the bull, or Angra-Mainyu, this does not matter. The slaying of the bull serves the purpose of the principal actor, Ahura-Mahzda/Sol Invictus, god of life, god of light, god of good.

Having articulated some of the principle differences between the Persian and Roman forms of Mithraism, let us now turn to what is most consistent and significant in the worship of Mithra in both cultures, from c. 700 BCE through c. 400 CE, from Rome to Persia.

This is the belief in the immortality of the soul and the notion of personal salvation.

In Mithraism, this theology underwent a profound development that would have a lasting and significant impact on other faith traditions in the Near East and broader Mediterranean world

There are several clues that we can follow to give us this story. These clues will help us understand the significance of Mithraism in relation to other Mediterranean religions; especially Judaism and Christianity, we do not have to go any farther than the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to see and understand this influence.

A close study of the Hebrew scriptures reveals that the Jewish people did not always have (and do not now have) a strong belief in either the immortality of the soul, or the afterlife. However, there was a period of time in which these beliefs did flourish, and in that time Christianity emerged.

After the Babylonian exile, which began in 586 BCE, these beliefs enter the Hebrew tradition, and over the next few centuries they become more clearly developed, especially among those Jewish communities remaining in the diaspora, living outside of Palestine, the former kingdoms of Israel and Judea.

Jews living in the diaspora made up the majority of the Jewish people living in the world at that time. At the time of Jesus, throughout Rome and its provinces it is believed that Jews made up as much as ten percent of the total population of free people, making the Jews of the diaspora a majority among their people.

When the Jewish people were released from captivity in Babylon, it was the Persians who had recently conquered that Babylonians, who granted them their freedom. It happened during the reign of the Persian king Cyrus.

Cyrus is depicted by the Jewish people in the Hebrew scriptures, as a servant of their God, Yahweh:

“22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—to fulfil the word of Yahweh through Jeremiah—Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom. 23 ‘Cyrus king of Persia says this, “Yahweh, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.”’ ”

This passage does not shed any light on what Cyrus’s theological disposition might have actually been, or what his personal beliefs were. Whatever that theology was (or was perceived to be), we can surmise that his beliefs and the beliefs of the Persian court did not present a significant conflict with Hebrew theology at that time.

At this time, the Persian court had been in full adherence to the principles and teaching of Zoroastrianism for at one hundred and fifty years, which is to say that they were Mithraites.

What this passage indicates is that there was no essential antagonism between the theological claims of the two cultures. Furthermore, it is likely that Cyrus or his priests, or both, saw a considerable amount of compatibility between the faiths of the two cultures and their systems of belief.

At this time, Persian Mithraism and Judaism were both essentially monotheistic, though neither of them were perfectly so. They were monotheistic faith systems which held as a basic tenet of belief that creation was good, created by a good god, for a good purpose, redounding to the benefit of humanity.

Mithraism had a strongly held belief in the immortality of the soul. At this time Judaism did not, but immediately following this period a movement within Judaism would develop its belief in the immortality of the soul in profoundly consequential ways. The adherents of this new movement within the Hebrew culture became known as the Pharisees.

The designation Pharisee, is derived from the name of the Persian priests of Zoroaster who were called the Parsees. This serves as etymological evidence that clearly shows the intimate connection between Pharisaic Judaism and the religious traditions of the Persian Empire.

This is not a causal relationship, but a relationship of influence.

Even in Jesus’ time, 500 years after the Babylonian exile; belief in the immortality of the soul had not fully entered the mainstream of Jewish life, especially inside the borders of Palestine, in Samaria and Judea. This belief system was primarily taught by the Pharisees, and the Essenes in the remote desert community of Qumran (a pharisaic sect).

Belief in the immortality of the soul was popular among Jewish people for whom the synagogue was the center of their faith life, and not the temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish Qabalah was also born in this popular tradition, the Pharisaic Judaism of the diaspora.

In addition to belief in the immortality of the soul, the Pharisees and the Essenes of Qumran, also had significantly developed angelologies. This belief in the existence of angels (divine messengers) was another matter that took a long time to develop in Judaism, but which was already present in Mithraism at the time of the Babylonian exile.

In fact, our word “angel,” meaning divine messenger, comes to English, from the Greek angelos, which is itself derived from the Persian word, angaros, meaning courier.

Many scholars say that it is impossible to state with certainty that the Pharisees received these teachings directly from the Parsees when they were exposed to Mithraism at the time of the Babylonian captivity.

I will tell you this, certitude may not be possible, but it is also impossible to rule it out.

What we can say for certain, is that the Pharisees came into existence just after the Babylonian exile, and it is beyond reasonable probability to suggests that Pharisaic beliefs developed independently of Mithraism, I do not believe in that type of coincidence. Therefore we conclude that the Pharisaic movement within Judaism is an example of pure theological syncretism, the cultural purchase by the Hebrews of an earlier Persian theology.

The Babylonian exile and the subsequent release of the Jewish people by the Persian king Cyrus were the first of many major streams of influence that Mithraism would have on the Judeo-Christian tradition. We will move slowly through a discussion of the others.

Prior to the Babylonian exile; a belief in angels and the immortality of the soul did not exist as fully developed doctrines, but they did exist in germ, in a latent form, insofar as they were the generalized beliefs permeating the Mediterranean region and the Near East at that time.

It should be noted that in most Mediterranean and Near Eastern traditions, the concept of a blessed afterlife, to the extent that such ideas existed, included the idea that those blessed places were reserved for people of notable and heroic stature.

Because common people, and slaves did not have the ability to lead a heroic or notable life, they had no hope of enjoying a blessed state in the hereafter.

Mithraism, and in more significant ways Christianity changed all of that; they changed this basic paradigm by promising the hope of salvation to anyone, regardless of gender and class, rank or status. Through these religions, common people and outcasts were able to entertain hopes of a blessed afterlife if, and only if they sought to align themselves with the god of creation, the god of light, and the god goodness, through an initiation into their mysteries.

In the first century BCE, the most important center for Mithraic worship in the Hellenistic world was in the region of Cilicia, in the city of Tarsus. The patron deity of this city was the Greek demi-god Perseus, officially. but as Ulansey points out, Perseus, as he was worshipped in Tarsus, was identical to the Persian Mithra in almost every way.

In his journals, the Roman general Pompey points out the fact that the people of Tarsus worship Mithra and this is the point of origin for the spread of the Cult of Mithra (from the East) into the Roman world.

I want to preface my discussion of the relationship between Mithra and Perseus with an acknowledgement of the profuse pluralism at work in the Greco-Roman, Pan-Hellenic world at this time. Parallels to Mithra and Perseus can be found in the stories of many other heroes. Not all of the adventures attributed to Perseus should be attributed to Mithra, and vice versa. In the Greco-Roman world, the gods and heroes were regarded differently, in different cities, and different regions, at different times. The heroes and gods in Greco-Roman mythology are extremely malleable and blend with one another quite extensively. However, in Tarsus the parallels between Mithra and Perseus go deep, and they are important; as I will demonstrate:

“According to Plutarch, Mithraism began among the pirates of Cilicia, the province bordering on the southern coast of Asia Minor. These pirates, whose ships ‘numbered more than a thousand, and the cities captured by them four hundred,’ and whom Pompey was sent to subdue in 67 BCE, ‘offered strange rites of there own at Olympus, and celebrated there certain secret rites among which those of Mithras continue to the present time having been first instituted by them.’…For our purposes, the most important aspect of Plutarch’s evidence tracing the origins of Mithraism to the region of Cilicia is the fact that Cilicia—and in particular its capitol city of Tarsus—was the home of a deeply rooted cult of the hero Perseus. ”

Among the Greeks Perseus was considered to be the founder of the city of Tarsus, a city bearing the name of the “Primal-Bull,” Taurus.

Let us note that Perseus, like Mithra, is intimately linked to the sun, referred to in the Greco-Roman myths as either: Apollo, Helios or Sol.

Sometimes Apollo is depicted as making oblations before Perseus, just as Sol is sometimes depicted as kneeling before Mithra. The order is reversed at other times, with Mithra or Perseus kneeling before the deity representing the sun, this is done in keeping with the themes of mutuality, and co-extensive identity between the god-hero, the hero and the god. The two are one.

In Greek mythology Perseus is strongly connected with the Persian Empire.

The Greeks believed that Perses, the son of Perseus and Andromeda, was the founder of the Persian Empire. Furthermore, Perseus is always depicted as wearing a Phrygian cap indicating his Asiatic (read Persian) origins.

“The evidence for a connection between the figures of Mithras and Perseus is of three kinds: first, there is the astronomical evidence consisting of the fact that the constellation Perseus occupies a position in the sky exactly analogous to that occupied by Mithras in the tauroctony; second, there are a number of striking iconographical and mythological parallels between the two figures, such as Perseus’ Phrygian cap, his connection with Persia, and the fact that like Perseus, Mithras always looks away from his victim; third there is the historical-geographical evidence linking the origins of Mithraism with Cilicia, the site of an important Perseus cult. ”

The astronomical evidence cited above concerns the fact that the constellation Mithra-Perseus is located directly above the constellation of Taurus the bull, making it so that if the two constellations are viewed together the figure of Mithra-Perseus is seen kneeling on the back of the bull, sword in hand, ready to make the ritual cut while looking away from the sacrificial victim, just as Mithra is always depicted in Mithraic artwork depicting the Tauroctony in Mithraic temples.

These similarities are too many to ignore.

The Cults of Mithra, and Perseus were the dominant cults of the city. Each of these Gods are depicted time and time again on Tarsian coins. Perseus is the patron deity of the city, and the city itself is named after the “Primal Bull” of Mithraic worship.

In the city of Tarsus, Mithra is Perseus, at least insofar as the way in which they were worshipped. The city of Tarsus also figures prominently in the syncretism between Mithraism and Christianity.

Tarsus is an old town, it originated as a Hittite city in the second millennium BCE. The Greek historian and geographer Strabo notes that by the first century BCE, it was a significant intellectual center “surpassing Athens and Alexandria.” It was known for its astronomers and produced the renowned philosophers Athenodorus and Nestor. More significant to our thesis is this, it was the birthplace, and home of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, a Jew and a Pharisee, and the most prominent writer of the early Christian Church.

There is no research explicitly stating that Paul was aware of, or was influenced by Mithraism, but to suggest that Paul would not have been aware of the basic tenets of belief promoted by the major Cult of the city he called home, that would be improbable in the extreme.

Paul was a learned man, and a figure of authority. In addition, Paul was a Pharisee. As I have already indicated in my introduction to the origins of the Pharisaic sect; the beliefs that Pharisees and Mithraites shared included beliefs about the immortality of the soul, the notion of personal salvation and the ministry of angels.

If Paul was not directly influenced by Mithraism he was indirectly influenced by Mithraic ideas, a conclusion we may draw simply by virtue of the fact that Paul was a Pharisee.

Furthermore, the prominence of his ministry, and its influence on Christian doctrine, constitutes a second infusion of Persian cosmology and theology, and of Persian soterieology into the Judeo-Christian tradition, the first being located within the timeframe of the Babylonian exile, and subsequent diaspora.

I do not contend that through Mithraism anything substantially “new” was imparted to the burgeoning Christian movement, but that the prevailing ideas of the “Persian-Mithraic worldview” were syncretized and concretized by the early church in a way which made it compatible with the form of Mithraism that had been spreading in the Roman Empire.

By the fourth century CE Mithraism had spread both through the travel of merchants, and through the Roman army, spreading as far North as Hadrian’s wall in Bremenium, and as far West as Olisipo on the Western coast of Spain; it had permeated the Roman provinces of North Africa and Egypt, and it was thriving in its home land of Persia; stretching its influence all the way across the Persian Empire to India.

As much as two percent of the population of the Roman Empire may have been initiated into the mysteries of the Cult of Mithra.

The traditional date to celebrate the birth of Mithra, going back as far as 750 BCE, is a date significant in the Roman calendar also, known as the Saturnalius, December 25th. This date is also the celebrated birthday of such notable people as Julius Caesar, his son by adoption Caesar Augustus, as well as the first Christian emperor, Constantine; and most famously Jesus of Nazareth.

The fact that all of these people shared the same birthday does not constitute proof of anything regarding the relationship between Mithraism and Christianity. The Romans used a different calendar in those days, and in that time December 25th was the date of the winter solstice. The solstice was celebrated in nearly every culture in the Northern hemisphere, because it is that point in the yearly cycle that the light returns, the days get longer, and the deepest dark of winter recedes.

Among the Romans, the Cult of Mithra was a “mystery religion,” meaning that it was secretive, it was closed to anyone that did not go through a significant ritual of initiation, and like other mystery religions, it purported to disclose to its initiates the mysteries of the universe.

Outside of Persia, the main adherents of the Cult of Mithra were members of the Roman army. There is no evidence that Mithraites were ever persecuted as Christians were, but like a number of other closed societies in ancient Rome, they had to keep to themselves and guard their secrets out of concern for the paranoid mindset of the Roman emperors. All manner of private groups, trade guilds, and burial societies, were periodically outlawed by one emperor or another, on account of the fact that most of the emperors were insecure in their power, and were constantly suspicious of treason.

The fact that the Cult of Mithra recruited many of its members from the Roman army probably spared it from persecution because the emperors always ruled by fragile alliances, and loose coalitions with the army insofar as they were always dependent on its power. If the emperors were to alienate large groups of their supporters (the army) through a persecution of their faith, it was guaranteed that they would be unable to hold onto their rule.

As I noted earlier, Ulansey saw the secrecy of the cult of Mithra, as practiced in the Roman Empire, as something distinct from the Persian form of Mithraism. There are differences between the two systems of belief, but not so great as to merit the claim that they are distinct from one another. A close look at the structure of these religious systems; their icons, rituals and beliefs will reveal crucial things about that relationship and how close it was, as well as the close relationship between Mithraism and Christianity.

AS I have noted already, in the Persian form of Mithraism (also referred to as Zoarastrianism), the priests were called Parsees, while outside of Persia they were known as the Magi. It is from the Magi that we have derived the term magic.

The Magi are of historical significance to the history of Christianity.

The Magi are present in the infancy narrative of Matthew. They give witness to the birth of Jesus. In the Gospels they were presented as wise men, and astronomers, just as the priests of Mithras and Zoroaster were in actuality.

Because the infancy narrative of Matthew is myth, which is to say that it is not an accurate retelling of history, rather it is a composed and tightly controlled theological statement, allowing us to conclude that the presence of the Magi in this narrative is not accidental. It is purposeful and therefore indicative of the sympathetic relationship between early Christians, and first century CE Mithraites.

Why would a sympathetic relationship exist?

Both Christians and Mithraites believed in the immortality of the soul, the reality of personal salvation, the ministry of the angelic host, a god of goodness and light, as well as the expectation of a final battle with the cosmic forces of darkness, sin and evil.

In the Roman world, by the first century CE, Mithra had taken on the aspect of the incarnate son, Sol Invictus. Furthermore, in his exalted state, after the feast he prepared from the flesh of the “Primal Bull,” Mithra is seen as being identical to Sol.

Mithra like Christ is seen as being a mediator between Heaven and Earth, responsible for guiding the souls of the elect to paradise. The iconographic similarities explain the sympatico between the two faiths.

Ulansey stated that the worship of Mithra in caves, as it was done among the Romans, was markedly distinct from the Persian form of worship, saying that we cannot explain this as something that occurred by way of a natural syncretic transformation. However, to dispute Ulansey’s claim, we can easily identify a path of transformation through the cult of Perseus, the patron deity of Tarsus.

Note well, as stated earlier, in the iconography of the city of Tarsus, Perseus and Mithra are one and the same entity.

Perseus is the son of the Titan Zeus, king of the Olympians and the human Danae. The symbolism in their union is profound. When Zeus impregnates Danae he comes to her in the form of a shower of gold; not in the form of a human being, or any other type of animal (as was often the case with Zeus). The impregnation of Danae by a shower of gold is the only scene like this depicted in all of the Greek mythologies. This is to say that Zeus impregnates Danae in his spirit form, through the exalted and ephemeral medium of a “golden-mist.” This is the most idealized and spiritual form Zeus could take.

The impregnation of Danae in this manner, and the subsequent birth of Perseus, is the closest thing in all of the Greek mythologies to a “virgin birth.” It is a conception narrative analogous to that of Mary conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Danae subsequently gives birth to Perseus in an underground cavern, she remains a virgin, never having been touched by the hands of men.

In astronomy the figure of Taurus (the Primal Bull) is the primary symbol of earth. Insofar as Mithra is transformed and exalted through the death and “new-life” of the bull, Mithra is also born of the earth.

As a result, the iconographic narratives of the births of both Perseus and Mithra, often depict them as emerging from a rock, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that the underground worship of Mithra served to highlight these features.

Symbolically, the earth is the womb wherein we are nurtured, from which we are born, like Mithra and like Perseus, from the womb of the earth we are born into new life.

Practically, the worship of Mithra in underground caverns had the effect of limiting Mithraic circles to small groups of people. The worship of Mithra is thought to have been exclusively male, though some scholars believe that in some regions women had their own form of Mithraic devotion.

In army outposts on the fringes of the Empire, the worship chambers were often very small, consisting of a narrow room with rows of benches, and not necessarily undeground.

In urban centers the size and splendor of the temples varied with the demographics of the cities they were in, from simple to ostentatious. However, it remains the case that most Mithraic worship places were small, and intimate. The intimacy of these temples bears a close similarity to the “house churches” of the early Christians. Many of the Mithraic temples found in Roman cities, such as Ostia, were converted to Christian worship after the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity.

As noted, among the Romans, Mithraism, like Christianity was centered in the “house church.” The practice was carried out among people who were intimate with one another. Individual practitioners believed that initiation into the mysteries allowed them to receive immortality through Mithra, but also as a part of a community.

Mithraism, like Christianity promoted the notion that its teachings would transform the individual spiritually, while leaving them in the same social position. The transformation of the individual was interior. It took place in the heart. It manifested itself in their position in the life of the Mithraic temple or Mithraic shrine as they advanced through the stages of initiation, but that did not mean that their status, or rank outside of the Mithraic community would change. A slave would remain a slave, a plebian would remain a plebian.

The activities of the cult were closed to the general society, they were secret and mysterious, and therefore not a cause for disturbance in the social order outside of the community.
In Roman Mithraism there were seven stages of initiation; the Crow, the Griffin, the Soldier, the Lion, the Persian, the Helio-Dromus (or Sun-Runner), and finally the Father. The symbolism of the number seven should not be lost on us, as in Christianity, there are seven sacraments, seven virtues, seven deadly sins etc…

The Order of Initiates were grouped in two classes; those in the first four stages counted as one class, and the last three stages counted as another class. An initiate would move through the stages of initiation until he became one with the Father, in so doing the initiate would become the Father himself.

At each stage of initiation, the initiate would learn a secret code that later, after death, would be used to get him into the heavenly realm appropriate to his rank. This belief in ranked heavenly planes and secret passwords that would allow the individual through the gates of paradise, was widely believed among practitioners of the Hebrew Qabalah (coming out of the Pharisaic Sect), as well as among groups of Christians who had fallen into the heretical errors of Gnosticism.

A ceremony of initiation was called a Telete, from the Greek word telos, meaning goal or end. In the ceremony of initiation, the initiate would first kneel before the Father. The Father would then perform a “laying on of hands,” followed by a rite similar to baptism, wherein the Father would pour water over the head of the initiate from the horn of a bull. Sometimes the rite of water would be done through full immersion.

In cases where the ceremony of initiation was accompanied by an actual animal sacrifice, the initiate would be splattered with the blood of the sacrificial animal or slapped in the face with a shank of meat. In other cases the blood would be replaced by wine.

This rite of blood, wine, or water is referred to as the purgation. This was a ritual cleansing of the individual from the corruption of sin. Sometimes the ceremony of purgation would be completed by passing a torch over the head of the individual, or even touching the individual with the torch in order to symbolize a baptism of both fire and water.

The purgation would be followed by the consecration or coronation, in which a golden crown would be placed on the head of the initiate; this crown was called the “solar crown.” Iconographically the solar crown was analogous to the Christian halo, which term is derived from the Greek; meaning disk of the sun.

There is much in this symbolism that recalls Christian rituals of initiation; so much that I will not even make an argument for how intimately linked the two systems of ritual initiation are. I will simply let the record speak for itself…

It is the same ritual system.

In Roman Mithraism, the initiation ceremony would be followed by a feast meant to symbolize the feast shared by Mithra and Sol.

Ideally, the sacred feast would come from the sacrifice of a bull, but this was not required. While the sacrifice of a bull was central to Mithraic worship, as the cult spread through the empire, and as worship became confined to house churches, it is thought the sacrifice of the bull was replaced with a symbolic alternative. Any sacrificial animal could serve for the feat, or even a meal of bread and wine could be sufficient.

Such compromises were theologically sound because the death of the “Primal Bull” was productive of all “good things” on the Earth; any of those “good things” that come from the bull were suitable to be used in the sacred meal. This meal itself, much like the Christian Eucharist, was thought to be an effective means of salvation for the worshippers of Mithra.

In Conclusion

Among the Romans, the first Christian emperor was Saint Constantine, Constantine the Great, who, prior to his death-bed conversion to Christianity, was also a devotee of Mithras-Sol Invictus. When Saint Constantine was made emperor, the first coins struck in his honor depicted his face with the inscription Sol Invictus.

This is evidence that Saint Constantine thought that he was himself, an incarnation of Sol Invictus. This may seem somewhat confusing considering that it is a matter of historical record that Saint Constantine attributed his victory over his enemies to Jesus Christ, it is understood that Saint Constantine’s famous vision of the Christian symbol, the Chi-Ro (Px), at the battle of the Milvian bridge (312 CE), enabled his victory when his army was at the gates of Rome.

However, in the minds of many practitioners of Mithraism, Jesus and Mithra may have been considered to have been the same person; believing that Jesus was an incarnation of Mithra.

If this is true, it begs the question; if Constantine thought he was Mithra-Sol Invictus, and if Jesus was also believed to be an incarnation of Mithra, did Saint Constantine the Great, think that he was an incarnation of Christ, Christ returned, the Second Coming?

I recommend that you look to the annals of Saint Eusebius his biographer in order to answer that question. What you find may surprise you.

There is one thing that I know for certain, Christianity and Mithraism, both as religious systems and spiritual philosophies, they are both filled with hope: Hope for the life of the individual; hope that the individual will ultimately experience justice. Belief that God is good, and that God has given a light to humankind that will guide us along the way to paradise.

Mithraism was less accessible to the average person than Christianity. Its adherents wanted to keep to its secret ways at a time when Christianity was opening itself to the world, defining the terms of its orthodoxy and rooting out those groups of heretics, the Gnostics, who had those same tendencies that Mithraites did toward secrecy and exclusivism.
Bibliography

Mithraic Iconography and Ideology, by Leroy A. Campbell, published by E. J. Brill, 1968

Mithraic Studies, edited by John R. Hinnells, published by Manchester University Press, 1975

Mithraism in Ostia, edited by Samuel Laeuchli, published by Northwestern University Press, 1967

The Mithras Liturgy, edited and translated by Marvin W. Meyer, published by Scholars Press, 1976

Mysteries of Mithras, by Franz Cumont, translated by Thomas J. McCormack, published by The Open Court Publishing Company, 1903

The New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition, published by Doubleday, 1989

The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, published by Oxford University Press, 1989

The New Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, published by Oxford University Press, 1993

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, published by Oxford University Press, 1997

[1] By 700 BCE the Royal court of Persia had fully converted to the religion of Zoroastrianism and its demi-god Mithra. However, Zoroastrianism likely emerged sometime between 2500 – 1200 BCE.

[2] The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 8, par. 4

[3] The New Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, pg.72, par. 3

[4] The New Jerusalem Bible, standard edition, Doubleday, 2 Chronicles 36: 22-23, pg. 448, col. 2, par. 2

[5] The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 40, par. 1

[6] The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 40, par. 1 and pg. 41, par. 3

[7] The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 44, par. 1

[8] The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 45, par. 2

[9] Strabo 64 B.C.E. – 21 C.E.

[10] The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 68

[11] The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 34-36

[12] Mithraic Iconography and Ideology, by Leroy A. Campbell, pgs. 291-305

Halloween – A Holiday Reflection

When I was young I imagined that Halloween was for children.

It was costumes and candy and imaginary play.

Halloween was an escape from reality, it was a chance to take a glance into another world, to pierce the veil of what is real and true.

We use to go block to block in our costumes, we called it Trick or Treating, we carried pillow cases slung over our shoulders, taking candies at nearly every door we knocked on, with nearly every bell we rang.

We scoffed at the people who only handed out little bibles or toothpaste, or some home-made fare, thinking they were doing something good.

We would rather have nothing at all than have those things, which quickly found their way into the trash.

I remember the drill of searching through our candy piles at the end of the night, looking for suspicious things, open packages, pins and needles and razor blades.

We understood that some people hated children and would slip these into the candies.

I never found anything dangerous, never once in all of those years.

Halloween is not all fun and games, though, it has a deeper meaning, than we were taught as children, a long history

Halloween is was not just about ghosts and goblins and friendly witches.

In the celebration of Halloween an ages old conflict is present, between the Christian Church, and the “Old Time Religion,” the customs of the pagans, paganus, pagani, the country folk and their persistent traditions lurking just beneath the surface of the Christian rites.

On the Christian Calendar; Halloween is All Hallows Eve, a celebration of the honored dead, of all the saints who had passed before, who have gone already to meet the maker.

For the old pagans; whose traditions are tightly interwoven with the church, Halloween is a celebration of the dead, plain and simple, of all of the dead, of the saints and sinners who have passed from this world together.

Halloween is an acknowledgment of the dead whose spirits live among us still; good and bad, honored or not; more often than not Halloween celebrates the dangerous, the macabre, the frightening and the weird, those qualities and characteristics that every person hides within themselves, because they are in fear of the world.

I was fourteen the last time I went Trick or Treating, and really, I was only chaperoning my younger brother, I was not dressed up, but I took some candy nonetheless.

In that same year I remember the Pastor at my church lamenting the popularity of the pagan festival. Believing that the Christian feast should be honored above it instead, or better yet, to the exclusion of anything else.

There was no fun in that, there was no fun in him. He was just an old man watching his tradition fade away, usurped by those of another generation, less committed to the Church.

In the years that followed, the number of children who go out in costumes seeking candy has declined by 25%, so the media outlets say.

Halloween is no longer considered safe or wholesome. It has yielded to the real dangers of the real world.

For me it is just another day, Halloween, I do not believe the dead walk with us. I have never seen a ghost, or any evidence of magic.

There are real horrors in the world, package bombers and angry middle-aged white guys with guns.

We have a pumpkin colored demagogue for a president, spreading fear, night and day at every turn.

We should all be thankful that we have the time to luxuriate in the fantastic and the surreal.

2019.10.31

Given 1st – 2016.10.31

Indigenous Peoples Day – Not Columbus Day

Let us forgo the celebration of Christopher Columbus today, with the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, he made an extraordinary crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, but with that being said we must recognize that Christopher Columbus was a monster.

He set out on his adventure and sailed in pursuit of his vanity, of wealth and titles. He sailed across the Atlantic four times and back; and he became wealthy, he earned those titles, but his vanity was never satisfied.

He was born in obscurity, an Italian from Genoa. As a boy he went to sea where he learned the skills and the knowledge that brought him to a captaincy.

In this aspect he was remarkable, and deserving of respect.

He became an adventurer in the service of the monarchs of Spain; Ferdinand and Isabella. He made his first voyage for them in 1492, as I learned by song, when I was a boy, that Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue.

He set sail on September 6th, and sighted land in what we now call the Islands of the Bahamas on October 12th. He named the island that he landed on San Salvador; exactly which island this was, is now lost to memory.

He expected to be in Asia, but to his surprise, and to the surprise of everyone back in the Spanish and European courts, there were other continents and other oceans they had yet to traverse in order to get to India.

They still wanted a westward route to India, but they were more than happy to discover the truth and learn the real shape of the world.

Columbus opened up these new continents and all of their peoples, to the incessant appetites and cruelties of the Europeans, to their hunger for gold, and for land and for war.

Columbus never sailed past the Islands of the Caribbean. He never set foot in what came to be known as the America’s, and his life was not without controversy.

He became wealthy and earned titles, but he was also arrested, jailed and relieved of his governance, before eventually being released.

His heirs did not inherit the titles he had earned, he never entered the true nobility. He died at the age of fifty four, a sailor from Genoa, Admiral of the Ocean Seas.

His coming to the West, was the beginning of the end for countless peoples, for tribes whose names history did not record, peaceful people who were captured and enslaved, and worked to death, the encommendero system began with him under the tyranny of Spanish rule.

We should note him for his historical significance, but the truth should be told and not celebrated.

Columbus was a harbinger of death.
Given 1st – 2018.10.08

Independence Day

I have always loved the fourth of July; the mid-summer holiday, the nostalgic look back at the victories of the Continental Soldiers, the American revolutionaries throwing off the yoke of tyranny and the oppression of kings.

I loved it.

I loved it uncritically as a child.

I loved it without thought or question.

A part of me still does.

As I grew older and I learned more about the real history of the revolutionary war, the real politics of the founders, the philosophies that drove them, the numerous ways in which they were morally and ethically compromised (compromised is too light of a word), compromised by war mongering and profiteering, compromised by slave-holding; as I learned more about these historical-truths, it became self-evident that the nation was founded on a carefully balanced set of ideals that the founders themselves did not have the courage to live up to.

America was founded on a compact of lies.

The preamble to the constitution states that all people are created equal, that all people inherently possess rights which we cannot be separated from, the foremost of which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that these rights are inalienable, or se we are told. These rights do not derive from government, they derive from God, the creator of the universe, God the creator of every person in it, these rights do not belong to us because we are Americans, they belong to us because we are human beings, and the American purpose is to defend those rights, both within our borders and around the world.

This was never more than wishful thinking, and today within our own borders we are trampling all over these rights, rights which belong to everyone, including, the immigrant and the alien among us.

Instead of welcoming and protecting and sheltering the poor and the disenfranchised who have come to us for asylum, we are imprisoning them, denying them due process, dehumanizing them, abusing them, and it is breaking my heart.

We have always failed to live up to our ideals.

The expression of these self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, and its codification in law, in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, did not at the same time abolish the institutions of slavery, give women the right to own land, to vote and other modes of self-determination.

It did not outlaw wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of the First People. These self-evident truths, these inalienable rights, did not prevent the United States of America from entering a campaign of genocide and extermination against them.

The founders applied these principles to themselves, and their “peers,” and used those principles to justify their separation from the dominion of the kings of England, they used these principles to protect their property after the war of independence had been won, but they refused to extend these principles to everyone within the aegis of American power, and we are still failing to do that today.

The 4th of July is Independence Day, it is a day to celebrate our freedom, and our victory in the revolutionary war, there is much to celebrate in that.

I am a veteran, I know that war and battle create many opportunities for selflessness and displays of courage that most human beings cannot help but admire and applaud, even though the antecedents of war and the causes of conflict are always unjust, morally vacant and abhorrent.

Always, without exception, war is a failure of human beings to live up to the purpose we were created for.

In my heart, I want to celebrate the revolutionaries, their courage, the flag which unifies us as a nation, but I find it difficult. The story of America, beginning on July 4th, is one that has many bright moments, but we are foolish, cold-hearted and ignorant if we do not at the same time recognize the millions of slaves who built our first cities, who farmed the plantations, who established our first industries, and the millions of people belonging to sovereign nations that we crushed in our westward expansion, starving and killing them without mercy, displacing them, outlawing their religion and customs, erasing their languages.

I find it difficult.
Who among us, knowing that history, finds it easy?

You would have to be a monster to be unmoved.

Today Donald Trump is breaking with all tradition to hold a political rally in the capitol, to put the military on parade at a cost of millions of dollars; to stroke his ego to cover up the blemish of his cowardice and erase the record as a draft dodger.

The 4th of July should be a time of soul searching and deep reflection and community, forget about the flag waving and jingoism.

Ask yourself what it means to be an American; immigrant, refugee, stolen people, enslaved people, conquered people, vanquished people, and the revolutionary. We are the descendants of them all, the immigrant, the refugee, the stolen, the enslaved, the conquered, the vanquished, and the revolutionary; we are their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren…we are one people with a common history, and a common set of ideals we should be continuously striving for.

We are a great nation, if and only if we remember it all.

Given – 2019.07.04
Given 1st – 2016.07.04