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THE FALL OF THE ANCIENT WISDOM

How the Ancient Wisdom was hidden or lost, then replaced by myths and half-truths.

 

Even from the earlist times the Ancient Wisdom has always included a wide range of doctrines, each of which can help to lead the earnest Seeker forward on its journey, but perhaps the most important of all these teachings are those which show us the Way of Return to God. They make it quite clear that whilst we each come from God and there is a Divine Spark within each one of us, the journey of that Spark from God back to God is a journey of many ages. And although it is primarily concerned with that small portion of the journey which takes us through human existence in the physical world, even that is shown to occupy many individual lives on earth.

 

 

The Central Concept of the Ancient Wisdom 

 

It is this belief in reincarnation that is the Central Concept of the Ancient Wisdom. Without it, any theology yet devised by human ingenuity or the inspiration of evil powers, fails to satisfy the earnest seeker. It is either, inconsistent and self-contradictory or it bears no relationship to the realities of human history and our mortal existence. As far back in history as records will take us, we find that virtually every culture of which we have any knowledge held some form of belief in Reincarnation.

 

The details of this belief certainly varied widely between cultures, but this is no place to compare one with another. In general, however, death and that which befalls us after death was seen merely as an interval between one earth life and another. That interval was variously perceived to be long or short in comparison to the average time spent on earth, and in many cultures, the knowledge of the afterlife was secondary to the basic fact of reincarnation. And this is not surprising, for after all, even today, most religions are concerned mainly with how we should behave on earth, whatever their ideas about the afterlife.

 

There is not the time to discuss all these various concepts in detail, nor is it needful. Suffice it to say that in the Age before the Coming of Jesus Christ and even in the Age before that, a belief in reincarnation, in some form or another was to be found in virtually every philosophy, of which we have any knowledge. Whether it was the great civilizations of Egypt, Sumer, India and China, or among the more primitive, less well-known groups such as the Celts and Scythians, one or more aspects of the doctrine of reincarnation played a role in the lives of virtually all the peoples of the Ancient world.

 

 

Zoroaster and his Teachings

 

Probably the first well-known group to reject the idea completely, were the followers of Zoroaster, who lived in the sixth century B.C.. Zoroaster had originally been a priest of the old Persian religion, which had strong links to both the Ancient Babylonian beliefs and to modern Hinduism and like both of them, understood much of the Ancient Wisdom and certainly believed in reincarnation.

 

Despite his background Zoroaster rejected many of their ideas, notably the plurality of deities[1], the plurality of lives and the antiquity of the earth[2]. His followers worshipped only One Deity, the God of Light, and considered themselves to be monotheists, (believers in One God). But though they actually worshipped only the God of Light, they were in fact dualists - believers in two Gods!

 

We can say this because they also acknowledged that the God of Light had an Enemy, a God of Darkness who was equally powerful. They taught that each of these gods had existed from all eternity, but that each dwelt in his own set of quite separate spiritual realms in which he was absolute ruler. Neither was omnipotent and although thoroughly opposed to one another from all eternity,  there had been no way for them to do battle, for there had been no common ground on which they could meet. For this reason, the physical earth and its first mortal inhabitants had been brought into being only some 9000 years before the time of Zoroaster. He and his followers saw this 9000 year history as being divided into three ages, each of 3000 years and predicted that from the time of Zoroaster, the world would last for a further 3000 years before the conflict would be finally resolved.

 

The conflict between the two gods was bitter and with no mercy shown, but it took place only on the earth. Supreme in his own Spirit Realms, each god sought to take control of the physical world – the only region in which both could operate. Each sought to do this by gaining the support of as many human spirits as possible, but only whilst they were in the flesh. As a result, some human beings would choose to follow one of these gods and some the other.

 

Those who followed the God of Light became good spirits or angels after death and helped him in his battle against the followers of the God of Darkness. By contrast, those who supported the God of Darkness passed, after death, to his realm where they became demons and took their place in the battle on his side.

 

However the only possible point of conflict was on earth, for the realms of the God of Darkness and the realms of the God of Light met nowhere else. Thus each individual on earth was a battleground between them, but only whilst on earth. After death there was no further conflict, for each would go to his/her allotted place in Heaven or Hell with no possibility of further change or second chances. Many modern Christians have a similar view of the “Afterlife”. They too, expect to end up in either Heaven or Hell, after death, and to remain there for all Eternity with no further opportunity to change their destinies or improve themselves in any way.

 

After his death the followers of Zoroaster rose to considerable prominence in the Persian Empire and over the next few centuries a number of their beliefs were adopted by other religions in whole or in part. As we have already seen, the early Christian Church abandoned much of the ancient Wisdom as the Age came to an end, and in its place, Medieval Christianity adopted a number Zoroastrian ideas, though they strongly rejected others. Three of these changes are of particular interest to us.

 

1.      They abandoned the idea of Reincarnation and the need for gradual progress towards perfection replacing it with the Zoroastrian idea that man lives only one life on earth, followed by an eternity in either Heaven or Hell.

 

2.      Instead of seeing sin as being the result of Man failing the tests applied by one whom God has appointed to that role, they adopted the Zoroastrian idea that Man was a point of conflict between opposing spiritual forces. Sin thus marked a defeat of God by His enemy, Satan.

 

3.      They abandoned the belief that the earth was of great antiquity and suggested that it had been miraculously created only a few thousand years ago, as a realm of conflict between these Good and Evil forces - an idea which also seems to have originated with Zoroaster.

 

In order to understand the way these three ideas developed and then infiltrated both non-Christian and Early Christian thinking we shall need to take a quick look at the history of Zoroastrianism and its concepts over that period. Then, with that in mind, we shall take a further look at the way each of these ideas later found its way into Medieval Christianity.

 

 

Tracing the Origins of Medieval Christian Teachings

 

For our purpose, Zoroastrian history begins with the birth of its founder, late in the seventh century B.C. (the exact date is uncertain), and continues with the spread of its philosophy both during his lifetime and immediately after his death, till it came to dominate the mighty Persian Empire. From then onwards the account falls broadly into three stages.

 

1.      Zoroastrian priests developed an avid interest in astrology and these “Magi”, became much respected even outside their own religion where attempts were made to combine the more important the teachings of Zoroaster with some of the beliefs of other peoples,

 

2.      This in turn led to the rise of Gnosticsm, in the First to Early Third, centuries A.D. This term is commonly applied to a number of widely differing systems of thought that were the result of combining basic Zoroastrian teachings with ideas taken from Greek, Egyptian, Jewish and Christian philosophies.

 

3.      Finally in the middle of the third century A.D, the Iraqi prophet Mani took the next logical step. He actually tried to bring back some of the Ancient Wisdom to Zoroastrianism and produced Manichaenism. This saw the founders of all previous religions as being “messengers from God,” with himself as the last and greatest[3]. “Manichaeism” persisted for more than a thousand years in its Asiatic home, and although formally rejected in the West, during the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., many of its beliefs found their way into the medieval Church and still survive in modern Christianity today, though often in a modified form.

 

The first stage began about the middle of the sixth century B.C., soon after the death of Zoroaster himself, when his followers rose to prominence under the early kings of Persia. About 539 B.C. one of these, Cyrus II overthrew the effete remnants of the Babylonian Empire and became effectively the ruler of most of the Middle Eastern world.

 

Although generally tolerant of the religious beliefs of their subjects, the Zoroastrian Persians naturally supported those groups whose ideas were similar to their own. We have already seen that they incorrectly saw themselves as monotheistic and one of the first Edicts of Cyrus allowed the monotheistic Jews to return to their own land, though still under Persian overlordship.

 

 

Zoroastrianism and Judaism.

 

The Jewish leaders made the best of this precarious position, even though that meant compromise. Whilst maintaining the most important aspects of their religion they took every opportunity to demonstrate the many similarities between their beliefs and those of their Persian masters. In the fifth century a thorough “revision”: of Jewish religious books took place, in order to purge them of the most “undesirable” elements.

 

This, the last major revision of the Jewish Scriptures was initiated during the time of Ezra, and may even have been begun under his supervision, though it was certainly not completed in his lifetime. It was accompanied, or perhaps followed by the prohibition of any further “revelations” or “revisions” that might upset either the Persians or the Jewish leaders of the puppet Jewish state[4]. 

 

In general this prohibition was rigidly observed[5], and over the next few centuries, both in Babylon and in Jerusalem, leading Jewish scholars concentrated on producing “commentaries” or “interpretations” of the existing scriptures rather than seeking fresh prophetic inspiration.

 

This system of thinking, (known as the Talmud) drew more and more on Persian influences, and after the Persian Empire was overthrown by Alexander the Great[6], increasingly on Greek and Egyptian ideas, too.

 

After the death of Alexander, his Empire was divided among his generals. Judea was initially ruled from Egypt, but later became part of the Seleuccid Empire, which also included Babylon and Syria, before a brief period of independence. Finally it succumbed to Rome. As Greek, Egyptian and even Roman ideas were more consonant with the Ancient Wisdom, and certainly included a belief in Reincarnation, any movement towards the abandonment of this idea in Judaism would have come to a halt during this period. Certainly in the time of Christ, as Josephus testifies, the Jews in general still accepted the concept of reincarnation, though there were apparently some disagreements about the details.

 

It was however, from the end of the first century B.C. – the period immediately preceding the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that this merging of Jewish, Greek and Egyptian ideas with Zoroastrian ideas from further East led to the development of what came to be known as the Gnostic movement. This ushers in the second stage of our story.

 

 

Gnosticism

 

The term “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “Gnosis”, meaning “knowledge” and there is no doubt that many Gnostic groups possessed much of the Ancient Wisdom. Unfortunately, however, it was Wisdom that had become diffused and fragmented, with most of the various groups holding merely a part of the whole. “Gnosticism” was never a single organization, but rather a number of small communities each striving after truth, but each following a different leader on a different route.

 

As we have seen, the beginnings of Gnosticism can be traced back to the end of the first century B.C., but it was about a hundred years later that it began to play a major role in the society of the Roman Empire. From the end of the first century A.D. it flourished for over 200 years until the beginning of the fourth and it was during this period that it clashed head-on with early Christianity.

 

Originally Christianity had been aligned with the Judaism of its Founder, Who certainly supported many (but not all[7]) of the views of the Essenes. However, after the Council of Jerusalem about A.D 50 (Acts 15) it began to turn away from Judaism and increasingly embraced the Graeco-Roman culture.

 

For the next few years Judaeo-Christians and Gentile Christians co-existed in relative harmony, but following the Roman-Jewish War and the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Graeco-Roman Christianity[8] found it expedient to distance itself from its suddenly-unpopular parent faith.

 

As a result it was suddenly forced “make its own way” in the Roman world and from the late first century A.D. onwards Gnosticism came to play a major role in the history of the Church. Its members often adopted Christian terms and rituals and modified them to suit their own ideas.

 

At times the reverse took place, as is made obvious in the writings of St John[9], but in general, for the next three centuries Christianity and Pagan Gnosticism remained readily distinguishable, with the various forms of Christian Gnosticism providing a range of intermediate theologies. With the formal recognition of Christianity by Constantine in the early fourth century A.D. and the imperial patronage that followed, the end of Gnosticism seemed to be in sight, but it was just at this time that the teaching of the great Iraqi prophet Mani reached the Roman Empire.

 

Although Manichaeism is often seen as a form of Gnosticism, this was not really the case. It certainly held a number of similar beliefs, but whilst Gnosticism had sought, with some success to combine the best attributes of several faiths in a search for the Ancient Wisdom, Mani had seen himself as the founder of a new religion.

 

To his followers he was the last and greatest in a long line of prophets who had brought that Wisdom to mankind, a line that included Jesus, Buddha and Zoroaster. But his ideas were based mainly on the teachings of Zoroaster whose followers persecuted Mani during his life and eventually martyred him.

 

In the late Fourth and early Fifth Centuries, Manichaeism spread into the Roman Empire, where it found itself engaged in a major confrontation with Christianity, newly established as the Official religion. In this confrontation the full resources of the Roman government were thrown behind its opposition. As a result, Manichaeism, as a viable organization, ceased to exist in the West, before the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D. 

 

In the Eastern Roman Empire, Manichaeism persisted for about another century, but further East still, beyond the boundaries of Graeco-Roman control, in Persia, Central Asia and even in China, it flourished for many centuries after this. Despite often-vicious Moslem persecution it finally ceased to exist only in about the fourteenth century, some 800 years after it had ended in the West.

 

 

The Concealing of the Ancient Wisdom

 

Manichaeism as an organization ceased to exist in the West shortly before the Fall of Rome, but a number of its ideas survived. Some even found their way into medieval Christianity almost by default, as it were. Either deliberately or accidentally many Christian concepts were replaced or obscured by Manichaean ideas from about this period (late Third to early Fifth Century) onwards.

 

We have already seen that it was during this era that much of the Ancient Wisdom which had existed in Early Christianity was deliberately “hidden away” by the Christian Church in the years leading up to the Fall of Rome. Fundamental to an understanding of this Ancient Wisdom was knowledge about Reincarnation. Without at least some form of this teaching, it is practically impossible for any philosophy to join a belief in a good and all-powerful God with the realities of human existence. Clearly there is inequality in the world. Inequality of birth, inequality of opportunity, inequality of ability! If God is just, then why should this be?

 

If a good mortal ruler presides over inequity, it may be said that although he wishes otherwise, he is incapable of correcting it because he hacks the ability, but God is all-powerful. Thus if there is inequality in this world it cannot be because He is unable to bring justice to the world, but because He chooses not to. Without a belief in Reincarnation it is hard to find any spiritual justification for such a choice, so why abbandon it?.

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Primitive souls are self-centred and have little interest in spiritual matters. They rarely have any interest in deep theological concepts, and so do not ask questions about them because personal considerations and worldly needs occupy their full attention. Such simple souls do not wonder why God does or does not do something. They are much more interested in finding ways of getting Him on their side in the struggle for survival.

 

Among such crude and savage people, the idea that one had only one chance to make good, could play a role in compelling primitive souls to follow the instructions of the new spiritual leaders. As a result the doctrine of Reincarnation was lost – or at least shelved[10] - well before the Fall of Rome as were indeed many other aspects of the Ancient Wisdom. But why was such a dramatic course of action taken?

 

When Christianity first came into the world the ancient civilisation had reached its height and soon afterwards the Age began drawing towards its end.  This fact was fully recognised by the early Church Fathers, although some seemed to have mistaken the end of an Age, or Cycle, for the end of the whole physical world. 

 

However, looking back, with the advantage of 1500 years of hindsight we can see that it was the end of a type of civilisation, and not of the whole physical world that was then in sight. Prior to that time, the excellence of Roman law and administration and the remarkable growth in the interest shown in the higher types of religion[11], provide clear proof that at that period the Age was at or near its peak.

 

What actually was taking place was that vast numbers of souls were reaching the ends of their journeys through earth-life. When they died these departed to higher spheres of work, leaving their places in society to be filled by cruder, younger, and more savage souls. Some of these latter were so primitive that they were largely incapable of functioning under the complex conditions that that civilisation involved[12].

 

When, during the fourth century, Christianity was first tolerated and then made the official religion of the Empire, the wisest leaders of the Church saw clearly what was happening and laid their plans to cope with the new situation.  They developed a simple, crude, exoteric faith, suitable for the young souls who were coming into the Empire, while they gradually hid away most of the more advanced teachings which such souls would have misunderstood. For the most part they were not lost, but hidden in the monastic system, to which many of the more advanced souls were drawn at this period. It is surely significant that it was just at this period that monasticism rose to prominence as the spiritual and intellectual centre of society, a position it was to occupy for the next thousand years[13].

 

The complete collapse of the Roman civilisation was gradual, but the fifth century, the time of its final fall was a terrible period. It is difficult to indicate in a few words, just how terrible was the collapse, how terrific the outrushing of souls from mortal life at that period. One fact alone may bring it home to you. When Rome fell, the population of Italy was about 35 million.  When, approximately 100 years later, an Eastern Emperor, Justinian, restored some semblance of order in that devastated area, the population had sunk to 2 million, and the bulk of these were ignorant peasants or even more ignorant Teutonic savages.  The same sort of devastation seems to have taken place in all the other Provinces of the Western Empire.

 

In its original form it is probable that Christianity would never have survived this catastrophe. As it was, in its simplified exoteric form, the Church did continue, though without many of the key aspects of the Ancient Wisdom of its Founder. It is now time for us to glance briefly at those teachings that were thus concealed and/or replaced by alternative concepts.

 

 



[1]

Obviously there is only One Divine Infinity, although there are different Aspects in that Godhead as the fullness of the Ancient Wisdom makes clear. But many simple souls cannot understand this concept, nor can they readily distinguish between an Aspect of the Godhead, such as the Salvator, and one of the Great Angels. Hence they often believe in a multiplicity of Gods, although usually behind such a pantheon, they distinguish a First Cause.  The reverse often happens in monotheistic philosophies and the Jews of the intertestamental period named one such Great Angel “Michael”, meaning “one who is like unto God” – hardly an appropriate description within a strictly monotheistic philosophy.  

[2]

Whilst we are not sure exactly how old the Babylonians though the earth to be, its age was certainly measured in the “millions of years”. Modern Hindus believe the world to be 4,300 million years old, an age which agrees remarkably well with the best estimates of modern science. (Between 4,500 and 5000 million years old.)

[3]

Some centuries later, Islam, which violently opposed and ultimately destroyed Manichaeism adopted the same philosophy, seeing Abraham, Moses and Jesus, (but not Mani, Buddha or others) as God’s prophets, but with Mahommed as the latest and greatest. A number of later faiths have also adopted this sort of idea though they too, often fail to acknowledge their debt to Mani.

[4]

At this period the local governor was a Jew (Nehemiah) who had been the cup-bearer of the Persian King but after his time, the Jewish High Priest became the effective head of the province.

[5]

The only real exception is the Book of Malachi, which dates from this period. It was the last one to “slip through” but unlike all previous books of the prophets, the author of Malachi was unable to write under his own name. The word “Malachi” is not really his name. It means messenger or more properly “ambassador of the King” and refers not only to the role of the prophet, but more specifically to his most important message – the promised reincarnation of Elijah as the Messenger of the Lord. (Malachi 3; 1 & 4; 5). It bitterly condemns the Jewish priesthood of the time, and in general, the book of Malachi has less in common with the other prophetic books than with later writings that failed to be accepted into the Jewish scriptures and have come down to us as “the apocrypha”.

[6]

This actually took several years, but he took control of Judaea about October- November of 332 B.C.

[7]

One of the main differences between the teachings of Christ and the beliefs of the Essenes concerns their attitude towards the Roman overlords. Christ taught “turn the other cheek”; “love your enemies” and “Render to Caesar the thing which are Caesar’s”, whilst the Essenes, though not supporting the violence of the “Zealots” (rebels, freedom-fighters, bandits, guerrillas or terrorists, depending on the point of view) clearly hated everything Roman.. 

[8]

The term “Graeco-Roman Christianity” refers to the form of Christianity that developed into the major Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the Christian Era. Other forms of Early Christianity include Judaeo-Christianity, which died out about the fourth century, Far Eastern Christianity, which once dominated Central Asia and of which only a few isolated remnants still exist and several other groups that developed outside the Roman Empire, notably in India, Ethiopia, Arabia and Ireland.

[9]

The concept of the “Logos” (St John 1; 1) which derived originally from Greek Philosophy and a number of other Gnostic concepts began to come into Christianity as this period.  The complex angelology of the book of Revelation, can be linked with Gnostic concepts and also with the teachings of the Essenes, but as St John makes clear in his epistles (1 John 4; 1 – 3) there remained a fundamental difference between  Christianity and Gnosticism – Christians believed that Jesus was actually made incarnate (come in the flesh), whilst Gnostics following the Ancient Wisdom, saw Him merely as an “appearance” as had been the case with all the comings of the Salvator before that time.

[10]

Probably it would be more accurate to say that it was shelved, for it seems that initially at least, it was the intention of the Church Leaders that it would be revealed again when the age had progressed sufficiently. Obviously this never happened, though it must be made quite clear that the doctrine of Reincarnation has never officially been repudiated.  No Council of the Universal Church has ever condemned it as heretical, and not even the Roman Catholic Church has done so.

[11]

By this we mean, not just the development of Christianity itself, but also the dramatic growth of other advanced “Mystery” religions. Furthermore, the fact that so many Christians were willing to lay down their lives for their faith is clear evidence that until the beginning of the fourth century there were plenty of people sufficiently spiritually evolved to appreciate such teachings.

[12]

One well-known example came when Rome finally fell to the barbarians. Instead of taking over the great temples and palaces, many of the conquerors, simply pitched their tents in the streets and stabled their horses in the great buildings, which were then allowed to fall into decay around them.

[13]

Often equated with the “thousand-year reign of Christ and His Saints” prophesied by St John in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 20,4), 

                                                                                              

 Why & When Key Christian Doctrines were

Dropped, Introduced or Changed 

 

DOCTRINE

DATE

REASONS

 

 

 

Second Coming of Christ

Late 1st century onwards

Inititially seen simply as the physical Return of Jesus in power and glory, after the Fall of Jerusalem, this belief began to be progressively modified, until today an enormous range of views exists.

Divine Mother

Late 1st century onwards

Dropped because of a fear that Christianity would be linked with the Fertility Cults that were generally seen to be immoral. In the west the change was hastened by the abandonment of the Aramaic language, in which the word for “Spirit” is automatically Feminine. 

Creation of all Things

2nd Century  onwards

Originally seen as a specific Act of God, followed by an evolutionary process, Creation came to be viewed as a series of groups of acts occurring over a literal six-day period. This change was resisted by Origen and others, but finally became generally accepted.after the Fall of the Age.

Divine Spark

3rd to 5th centuries

Originally accepted by Jews, Christians & Pagans, belief in the Divine Spark within us each was dropped largely as a reaction to Gnostic views and replaced by a nebulous linking of the creation of spirit and body. This was then tied in with Original Sin

Reincarnation

4th to 6th centuries

In various forms Reincarnation was accepted by Jews, early Christians and most Pagan groups, but was gradually replaced with the contrary Zoroastrian view in order to facilitate the conversion of primitive barbarian tribes as the Age came to an end.

Satan as an Enemy of God

4th century onwards

Early Christians held the Jewish concept of Satan as “the Accuser” who tempted & tested mankind. Later this idea was increasingly blended with the Manichaean belief in an Anti-god.

Predestin-ationism

5th century onwards

Augustine’s efforts to explain Salvation through the Sacrifice of Christ without a belief in karma led to his claim that Divine Grace alone was needful for Salvation and that no human effort was necessary. Eventually this idea developed into Predestinationism. 

The Afterlife

5th century onwards

With minor variations Belief in an afterlife was generally accepted among Jews, Christians and Pagans alike until it was replaced by the Zoroastrian belief in a simple choice between Heaven or Hell during the 5th century.

Original Sin

5th to 8th  centuries

Based on an interpretation of the Greek concept of reproduction this was originally promoted as an allegorical explanation of the need for Baptism when belief in Reincarnation began to be replaced.

Historical Adam

5th to 16th centuries

In an uneducated and uncritical age.it gradually came to be seen as deriving from what was seen to be a historical Adam.

Procession of the Holy Spirit

8th to 10th century

Due to a lack of understanding of the process of Creation, and of the Feminine Nature of the Holy Spirit ill-educated Barbarian clergy from the West introduced this idea, through a misguided desire to honour God the Son. It was never accepted in the East.

Celibacy of the Clergy

9th to 12th centuries

Initially encouraged and then made compulsory in the West. This was done mainly for financial reasons as unmarried Priests could be expected to will their personal assets to the Church, whilst those who were married would leave their property to their children. 

Apostolic Authority

15th century onwards

Generally accepted until the Reformation, but as most bishops refused to support Protestants they chose the Bible as a new basis for Authority, despite the fact that in turn, it owed its existence to Apostolic Authority.

Sacraments

16th century

Protestants abolished most Sacraments, though some kept a modified form of two - Baptism and Communion. They deny transubstantiation.

Heaven or Hell & Nothing Else

16th century onwards

At first a belief in an intermediate state, called Purgatory modified this extreme position but during the Reformation even this was rejected. Today many Protestaants see no choice but Heaven or Hell

The Dead in a Coma

16th century onwards

A variation on that theme sought to modify its effect by suggesting that although their fate was already decided and so there was no point in praying for them, the dead were not already in Heaven or Hell, but in a state of suspended animation till the “Last Day”.

 

Changes in Christianity

 

This article looks at the Major Changes that were made in Christian teachings after the time of the Apostles, as well as Why & When they were Made. 

                      

Looking at the Ancient Wisdom as it has been revealed to us through many ancient records, as well as the through the writings of the later Saints and Mystics, it is clear that most modern Christian groups only believe a fraction of the original teaching of Christ. In fact it has to be said that most of the concepts He propounded have been so changed over the centuries that in many cases the teachings of modern denominations would be quite unrecognizable to His Apostles and their first hearers. And lest any should question this fact, let them ask themselves which of the many modern denominations best reflect His teachings, let alone has preserved them unchanged? Western Christianity in particular has seen many alterations.Changes have been made at various times in the history of Western Christianity, often most dramatic changes and unfortunately modern denominations have all been affected by at least some of them.

 

There have, however, been a few historians who have made a consistent effort over many years to uncover the original concepts and today we can begin to piece together that Original Wisdom as it once existed. Not that any can claim that the task has been done – far from it, for we can ony be certain of that when Christ comes again. Yet what is discussed here, can be asserted with moderate certainty. .

 

The list of changes set out in the Table above is certainly not complete, but it is provided in order to give an indication of their variety and scope. They were made for various reasons - some were undoubtedly worthy – others certainly were not. Nevertheless all those changes that are included in this chapter, have played and in many cases still do play, a significant part in the corruption of the faith once delivered to the saints and which through their studies many earnest seekers are trying to restore to its pristine purity.

 

 

Second Coming of Christ

 

Perhaps the most important belief of the Early Christians was based upon the promise of Christ that He would come again. Initially this was seen simply as the physical Return of Jesus Himself in power and glory, but otherwise in the same form that he had appeared to His Apostles after the Resurrection – in other words in a physical body that could be touched and handled and could eat solid food. There is little doubt too, that in the first few decades this Return of Christ was expected to take place within a few years or at most a few decades, for at one point Christ had said that “This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled”.(St Luke 21; 32)[1] and this was seen to refer to His Second Coming. In common Jewish parlance a generation was forty years, and therefore His Coming was expected within that period.  However, a careful study of the preceding verses shows that Christ had been asked about and was referring to the Destruction of Jerusalem, which did indeed take place forty years after the Crucifixion.

 

How then, did this mistake occur? The short answer is that it was not entirely a mistake! Butalthough much could be written on the subject, for the present it will suffice to say merely that Christ and His army was seen in the clouds above the stricken city just before its fall (Josephus; Wars; 5; 5; 3). Many of the earlier New Testament prophecies that look for Christ’s Coming in Judgement can also be seen as referring to this incident, which to the original Judaeo-Christians indeed heralded the end of the Jewish world.

 

After the Fall of Jerusalem, however, the belief in the Second Coming began to be progressively modified, among Gentile Christians until today an enormous range of views exists. In many cases ideas vary even within the same denomination, but unlike many other doctrines, at least in this case the original view has survived[2], though it is only one out of many. The same cannot generally be said of what was probably the first major spiritual concept to be abandoned – the Belief that God is All in All, that Mankind was made in the Image of God and in particular that within the Godhead there must be a Female Principle as well as a Male. Let us therefore next consider the subject of the Motherhood of God as it was believed in Christ’s day and how and why this knowledge was lost.   

 

 

The Divine Mother.

 

There is little doubt that among the Jews God was once seen to embody both Male and Female Principles aud in fact there are a number of Old Testament references which support this contention. There is no doubt too, that Christ Himself saw the Divine Wisdom as His Mother as well as the Mother of other human beings and He makes this plain in St Luke 7; 33 - 35:

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!  But wisdom is justified of all her children..

 

In Hebrew, as well as in those languages that derive from it, such as Aramaic, the word for Spirit is basically female in gender and in those Churches that used Aramaic as their language, the Holy Spirit was linked with the Feminine Aspect of the Godhead, at least until the 4th century (See the writins of Aphrahat, the 4th century Persian Church Father)  Graeco-Roman Christianity, however, found it hard to promote belief in the Divine Mother. Nor was this entirely connected with the fact that in Greek the word for Spirit is neuter gender, whilst in Latin it is masculine, though a belief in the Feminine Aspect has usually been weakest in the Western or Latin-speaking part of the Empire. There was a more practical reason that this teaching was quickly abandoned in the West.

 

Once Christianity left its Jewish womb it suddenly found itself exposed to an army of other faiths, prominent among which were a range of Fertility Cults. Most of these were based upon the perceived need to fertilize both the soil and the flocks and consequently emphasized sex to a greater or lesser degree. Many involved armies of priestess-prostitutes who as their service to the Deity offered themselves to worshippers for a fee, which was then donated to the temple authorities. In addition to the worship of a Great Mother Goddess, these cults also included various stories of a Dying God , whose death was necesary to ensure the fertilization of the Goddess, but who rose again in the Spring to repeat the process each year. As Christianity already had a “Dying God”, Who had Risen Again in the Spring, any significant promotion of the worship of the Female Aspect of the Godhead, could very easily have led to the Early Church being considered to be merely just one out of many Fertility Cults.

 

Clearly Christianity could not abandon the Story of the Resurrection which unlike other similar tales was based on historical fact[3]. Rightly or wrongly it chose rather to abandon the concept of a Divine Mother, at least in the West, from about the end of the 1st century onwards. Outside the Roman Empire the same imperative did not exist, for although they had once flourished in Babylon, by this period fertility cults were of only minor importance in the Parthian Empire whose principle religion was Zoroastrian dualism. It is likely that it was this fact, even more than the Feminine gender of the word for Spirit in Aramaic that allowed this knowledge to persist far longer in the East – certainly until the Moslem conquest of the 7th century, and in China, possibly even longer[4].

 

 

Creation of all Things

 

Another significant change concerned beliefs about the nature of the Creation of All Things. Originally seen by the Jews as a specific Act of God, followed by an ordered evolutionary process, Creation gradually came to be viewed as a number of specific acts or Groups of Acts occurring over a literal six-day period. The beginnings of this concept can be traced back to about the time of the Bar Kochba revolt (132) and from then onwards as Judaeo-Christianity declined it became steadily more common-place. This change was resisted by Origen and others, but finally became generally accepted after the Fall of the Age.

 

The reasons for its gradual acceptance in Christianity seem to be linked with Gnosticism which saw the process of Creation as a deliberate procession of acts or "emanations" by an antagonistic Creator God or Demiurge rather than by the God of Christianity. Early Christianity insisted that God was the only Creator, aided by His Word and His Holy Spirit. However, the opposition of Gnostics to the Old Testament and everything in it gradually led Christian Apologists, who were forced to defend it, to take a more and more literal view of everything that it contained. Although this change began through the conflict with Gnosticism it gradually became blended with the later doctrine of “Original Sin” and in fact provided an ideal background for it as we shall see in due course.

 

 

Divine Spark

 

Widely accepted by Jews and Christians as well as various Pagan philosophers until at least the 3rd century, the belief that a Spark of the Divine Essence was to be found within each human soul[5] was dropped largely as a reaction to Gnostic views that the Divine Spark was somehow imprisoned within the earthly body. Although a very similar concept had existed in early Christianity, it was gradually abandoned as  increasingly involved philosophical discussions about the nature of the soul gradually obscured this essentially mystical concept and it fell from favour during the early 4th century and the years which followed. It was not however, replaced by any other generally accepted view about the origin of the soul and even today there is no broad concensus on the subject among modern Christian denominations, who it must be remembered do not generally believe in reincarnatiuon.

 

Some suggest that the soul originates only with the conception of the body, and in effect stems from that act. Logically this view makes it hard to suggest that the soul does not also die with the death of the body and some groups actually admit this and therefore do not believe in the immortality of the soul. Others contend that each soul is specially created by God for that particular incarnation, but if that is so, it is hard to defend the doctrine of Original Sin, for how shall that which has just been specially created by God be called sinful? This is a broad subject and one that must be addressed elsewhere, but there is little doubt that the uncertainty leaves a gaping hole in the beliefs of many Christians.

 

 

Reincarnation

 

In various forms a belief in Reincarnation was accepted by Jews, early Christians and most Pagan groups during the Apostolic Age, and there are a number of indications that it was generally accepted among Christians at least until the 3rd century. Among Church Fathers, perhaps the best known exponent of this belief was the great Origen himself, and throughout the following century his supporters, such as St Basil, Rufinus and St Jerome, fought a losing battle against  the teachings of Zoroaster, but seems to have entered Christianity through Manichaeanism - effectively an off-shoot of the old Persian religion.

 

According to this cosmology, the Good God and the Evil God, had each existed from all Eternity in his own realm in which he was supreme. But although each hated the other, they could not join battle till they created Earth and the human race, a few thousand years[6] before the time of Zoroaster. Earth was a place which each could influence and as each tried to do so, the conflict between them began. Each human was put on earth and each God tried to win him/her to His cause.

 

Those who followed the Good God could expect to go to heaven after death where they would become Angels or good spirits in His Army, and remain there for ever, in bliss. Those who followed the Evil God would become devils or demons in his army and be consigned to eternal torment.

 

Thus to the Zoroastrian and also to the Manichaean, life represented a simple choice. If he followed the Good God, he would only have to do so for this one earth life, after which he could expect to enjoy eternal bliss, but could never improve his lot any further after death. The reverse applied to those who followed the Evil God. For them too, their fate was fixed irrevocably at death and they could never ameliorate it therafter. Many aspects of this cosmology were introduced to Western Christianity through its confrontation with Manichaeism in the early 5th century, which in fact was the major period of such changes and many, though by no means all, such new ideas came from Manichaeism as will be demonstrated in the next few pages.

 

However because of the widespread respect given to Origen who had supported the Doctrine of Reincarnation, it was not until the opposition of the Emperor Justinian led to his writings being anathematized by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553[7] that it faded from theological view. This seems to have been mainly because it was associated with Origen for it is not specifically identified in the Anathamatisms, but Origen himself became generally discredited from this time onwards. This was especially true in the Greek Orthodox Churches where the Emperor Justinian is still held in high regard. In the Roman Church where Justinian is not liked[8], Origen is much less criticized.

                                         

In both, however, athough it was never officially condemned and sometimes revived again in later times, the Doctrine of Reincarnation must be considered to have been dropped from general teaching during the 4th to 6th centuries. It seems to have remained in Far Eastern Christianity for longer, certainly until the Moslem conquest of Persia, (7th century) and further East among Chinese Christians probably until the Chinese Church faded from history in the 13th or 14th centuries. As to why such a logical and widespread doctrine should have been dropped, the same basic reason as for other changes must be invoked. The Age was ending and more primitive souls required a more basic philosophy. It is even possible to dramatise it thus

“If you were to say to a barbarian chief, ‘The way you’re going it will be many more lives before you’ll get to Heaven. Why don’t you stop all this killing and plundering so you can get there a bit quicker?’ He’d probably say ‘I quite like what I’m doing. I think I’ll reform a few lives hence!’ But if you said to him ‘If you don’t reform in this life, as soon as you die, you’ll go to Hell and burn there for ever and ever”, he’d be more likely to do something about it.”

 

This may well have been the most important reason for the loss of the doctrine of Reincarnation, which, in terms of its effect on subsequent Christianity, is probably the most significant of all the changes that occurred at this time. There were others, however, and a number of them were at least partly linked to this sacrifice of the Doctrine of Reincarnation.

 

 

Satan as an Enemy of God

 

Until at least the 3rd century (according to Pseudoclement)[9] the Jewish[10] concept of Satan as “the Accuser” who tempted & tested mankind but only as permitted by God, was widely accepted in Christianity[11]. Thereafter it was gradually lost or rather, increasingly blended with the Manichaean belief in an Anti-god until by the end of the 5th Century the self-contradictory concept[12] that a Being created Perfect by an Omnipotent God was somehow both foolish enough to rebel against Him and wicked enough to do, seems to have become well established.

 

Probably this was because it too was a simple concept that could easily be presented to barbaric peoples who were used to merciless warfare. They could accept that God had an enemy – they had enemies of their own; they could easily be led to see themselves as God’s servants helping to fight His enemy, just as they fought the enemies of their own chieftain without question or debate. They were not used to challenging or questioning authority and therefore they did not stop to question why, if God was so powerful, He had not destroyed His enemy long before. Furthermore their teachers realised that as long as they fought against the temptations of this “enemy” the inaccuracy of the knowledge about him was of only minor significance.

 

It was not until education began to lead average people to think rationally from about the mid 19th century onwards, that the inherent illogicality of the concept became generally apparent and amidst a welter of further modifications many people came to abandon all belief in a “Power of Evil”, opposed to God, something that has clearly led to many abuses in the modern era.

 

 

Predestinationism

 

The early Church had believed that God wished all men to be saved and that eventually His Will would prevail, a view that was still being actively promoted by Gregory of Nyssa at the end of the 4th century, but from 5th century onwards this began to change, as obviously it had to, if the threat of Hell was to be an effective means of controlling the Barbarian tribes. Augustine’s efforts to explain Salvation through the Sacrifice of Christ without a belief in karma led to his claim that Divine Grace alone was needful for Salvation and that no human effort was necessary. “Grace” was effectively another name for the “accumulated Good Karma” that Christ had earned by His Sacrifice on the Cross, but according to Augustine’s followers, Grace made effort unnecessary.

 

For many years, the full implications of this concept were concealed by the medieval Church[13] but as society became better educated, this changed. The Renaissance led to the Reformation and eventually the idea developed into Predestinationism. In one sense, of course, this belief was not new, for it was inherent in the Apostolic Teaching that all will eventually Return to God whence they came. In such a doctrine, however, its ramifications are very different, for in that case one can be assured of ultimate salvation no matter how long it takes. However, when Predestiantionism is combined with a belief in perpetual damnation for even some human souls, it assumes a diabolical aspect. It had long taught that whilst some would go to Heaven, others would be consigned to Hell for all Eternity.and Medieval Christianity had long abandoned the concept of salvation for all when Protestantism began to experiment with Predestinationism.

 

The belief that an all-powerful and benevolent God would permit even some of His Children to be consigned to everlasting torment for sins that no matter how bad had occupied only a limited period of time, was monstrous enough, but when combined with Predestinationism it became far worse. It inferred that God selected certain souls for perpetual damnation, not as a punishment for doing wrong, but on a purely arbitrary basis - a view which if not blasphemous is clearly very close to it. And this is what is meant the Doctrine of Predestination. It makes it plain either that either;

  1. God is not good.
  2. God is not all-powerful, or
  3. The belief in Perpetual damnation is false.

 

Obviously the last alternative is correct, but as Perpetual Damnation was the basis on which Medieval Christainity had been founded, the Church could hardly abandon it. Protestantism may have been wrong about many things, but with Pre-destinationism it came very close to demonstrating the hollowness of Medieval Christianity. However a millennium of conditioning was not so easily discarded and the proponents of Predestinationism had been thoroughly indoctrinated and could not do so. However they were so horrified at the alternative implications that they abandoned the doctrine, which is not taught by any mainstream Protestant group today, despite the fact that it is inherent in basic Protestant theology. But neither did they did return to a belief in Reincarnation - the medieval proponents of Perpetual Damnation had done their work too well.

 

 

The Afterlife

 

With minor variations, belief in an Afterlife comprising a range of states – Blessed, Intermediate and Punishment - was generally accepted among Jews, Christians and Pagans alike until it started to be replaced by the Zoroastrian concept of a simple choice between Heaven or Hell during the 5th century A.D. However, unlike some other aspects of the Ancient Wisdom, the old belief in some form of Intermediate state that one entered immediately after death was not readily lost. Both the Old and New Testaments contained references to ghosts and spirits and there was too much support for the belief in Scripture as well as in normal human experience, for the belief to be totally suppressed. Nor apparently did the Church really wish to do so! It merely wished to emphasise its new teaching that there was only one earthly incarnation in which man could choose to serve God or the Devil and that one had to repent of one’s sins before death because once one had died, one’s ultimate destiny was settled and no amount of effort, repentance or prayer could then change it. There was not even any point in people on earth praying for the dead![14]

 

The Doctrine of Purgatory was devised in order to make this point and like many of the changes that occurred at this time its origins are largely due to the work of St Augustine. It is in fact merely a surviving remnant of the broad and detailed understanding of Life after Death that had characterised the Ancient Wisdom of Christ and His Apostles, but for about another thousand years, it served to obscure the illogical starkness of the choice between Heaven and Hell from all but the most advanced thinkers. In the Roman Catholic Church, even today Purgatory is still seen basically as a place where those who are not good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell, are gradually purged of their remaining sins through suffering so that they may eventually be found worthy of Heaven. Those who go to Hell are seen to be beyond hope and therefore no prayers can help them.

 

Most of the Eastern Orthodox Churches have a somewhat different view of life after death. They too believe in an intermediate state, but many see it as merely a foretaste of either Heaven or Hell, rather than a place of purging. In actual fact both views are correct, and a combination of the two offers a closer reflection of the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom than does either alone[15]

 

 

Original Sin

 

The idea of Original Sin is another concept that can be traced to Augustine and although some claim to be able to detect inferences in the works of earlier writers, there is no doubt that it was from his time and based on his reputation that it achieved its later general acceptance in the Western Church. Even so it was not universally welcomed and must be said to have replaced the Doctrine of Reincarnation only gradually between the 5th and 8th centuries. We today tend to find it unsatisfactory as an explanation for many aspects of life, or even laughable, but in its day it was in fact a brilliant compromise, a philosophical adaptation of the Laws of karma that could be supported without a belief in reincarnation!  Based on the Greek theory of reproduction it argued that if a historical Adam once sinned, then within him at that moment there dwelt every succeeding generation of the human race[17], who thus shared in that sin. Inferring the historicity of an allegorical figure, just as 19th century rationalists sought to allegorise away the historical Jesus, the Doctrine of Original Sin claimed that by being physically present within the body of Adam when he fell, every succeeding generation of humans shared in the karma of that Fall and needed to be cleansed therefrom by baptism. In an uneducated and uncritical age the idea became generally accepted and gradually led to a belief that the Fall of Adam was a historical event.

 

 

Historical Adam

 

Earlier writers, such as Origen had generally seen the Biblical narrative of Adam and Eve as allegorical, and he was clearly contemptuous of those who even in his day suggested otherwise. In his “First Principles” 4: 16, he writes

“Who would be so childish as to think that God was like a human gardener and planted a paradise in Eden. . . . .. . . I cannot think that anyone would dispute that these things are said in the figurative sense, in an effort to reveal certain mysteries by means of an apparent historical tale and not by something that actually took place. . . . .

 

However the very existence of this passage indicates that even in his days (Mid 3rd century) there were some who thought in this way, and in fact a number of Gnostic groups had accepted such views from the late 1st century onwards. Not should this surprise us, for stories of a primordial couple are found in many mythologies and it is hard to be sure exactly when the Biblical story first became linked with them, but the belief may even have predated Gnosticism. Possibly it stems from as early as the days of the Hasidim, whose commentaries on the Old Testament were only part of a tendency to introduce a number of Zoroastrian and Pagan Greek concepts into Judaism from about the 4th century B.C. onwards. It is also likely that it was during this period and seeking to demonstrate that their nation was older than either, that the Jews began to number their years from the supposed date of the Creation of the world. This dating system which remained in general use throughout the Western world until at least the 7th century A.D., placed the Crucifixion of Christ in the year 5226 A.M.[18]

 

The abbreviation means “Annus Mundi”, the year of the world, and as the Crucifixion is usually placed in 30 A.D., this means that the date of Creation was placed in about 5195 B.C. Thus although the idea of a historical Adam had been around for centuries it was only through the introduction of the Doctrine of Original Sin, that it acquired a religious significance, and perhaps strangely it seems that it was not until the time of Luther that the story of Adam was definitively linked with the Creation of the World at the specific date usually accorded it by modern fundamentalists. In the 16th century Luther placed in 4000 B.C. – more than a thousand years later than the ancients[19]. Thus, in the sense in which modern fundamentalists use the term, the idea of a Historical Adam derives mainly from the 16th century. 

 

 

Procession of the Holy Spirit

 

From the time of its establishment as the official religion of the Roman Empire, (late 4th century) Graeco-Roman Christianity, and especially its Latin-speaking West, was pre-occupied with the need to divert Christian theology from its original mystical nature into a more legalistic framework, and in particular it devoted much time to trying to define the Nature of God, which is obviously an impossibility and almost a contradiction in terms. Most of the disagreements within later Western Christianity derive from this tendency, which in many cases produced fine legal definitions without regard for spiritual reality or the original Apostolic teaching! At other times, owing to the previous loss of some Aspect of the Ancient Wisdom it led to an even greater departure from the Truth on the part of one or more groups.

 

The Doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son is the result of one such error. Christ had said that She proceeds from the Father (St John 15; 26) but in the 8th century the ill-educated barbarian clergy who supported the armies of Charlemagne decided that this was an insult to the Son and that the Holy Ghost should also be said to proceed from Him. In this context, the term “proceed” virtually means “to emanate from” and what was being suggested here is that the Holy Ghost emanated not from the Father as Christ had said[20], but from the Father and the Son jointly. The term “emanate” is widely used in Gnostic theology, for which reason it is not employed in Christian theology, but for most practical purposes the meaning of “proceed” is the same[21].

 

In physical terminology it is obviously impossible for one Person to proceed from Another except in the way that a child proceeds from its parent. And as Christ was already acknowledged to have been Begotten by the Father before all worlds, there was no reason that as the Apostle’s Creed stated, He should not have been said to have also been Conceived by the Holy Ghost, also before all worlds. However, this new “Dual Procession Doctrine” reversed this position, something that would never have been considered if the Holy Spirit has still been regarded as the Divine Mother.

 

Now although the Orthodox Churches, too, had generally forgotten that the Holy Ghost is Feminine, they were not so foolish as to change the Creed to suggest that the Holy Ghost could proceed from Two Male Persons. This is because such a concept effectively denies Her Personality, and thus defines Her as merely the Active Force of God in the world, rather than as the Third Person of the Trinity. It is of course perfectly proper to suggest that Both the Father and the Son ACT THROUGH the Holy Spirit in the world. Unfortunately, however, this is not the sole, or even the main, logical development of this theology; it actually infers that the Holy Spirit is not a Divine Person at all, but merely a Force emanating from Either or Both of the Other Two Divine Persons. This view is now promulgated by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and some other modern groups but in general, the Western Church has never accepted this logical development of the Dual Procession idea.

 

The proposal of Charlemagne’s clergy did not initially receive much support in the Roman Church hierarchy and the doctrine was not generally accepted even in the West until about the 10th century. Even this reluctant acceptance can be largely attributed only to a lack of understanding of the process of Creation, and in particular to ignorance of the Feminine Nature of the Holy Spirit. It was introduced, through a misguided desire to honour God the Son, rather than with an appreciation of the theology involved and was never accepted by the better educated clergy of the East[22].

 

This is a big subject, but we have already spent overlong on it for our present purposes and it is now time for us to consider another major change that was introduced in the West soon afterwards, but which was also rejected in the East.

 

 

Celibacy of the Clergy

 

There were a number of differences between the Church in the Byzantine Empire and its Latin countepart as they gradually drifted apart in the 9th to 11th centuries. One of the most significant was the attitude towards celibacy of the clergy. In the Far East (Persian Church) it had never been acccepted, but in the Greek-speaking Byzantine Churches celibacy had long been recognised as a form of sacrifice appropriate to the spiritual way of life and from about the 5th century onwards bishops of the Orthodox Churches (but not in Far Eastern Christianity) have usually been chosen from among those who had made such a commitment. However, it was never widespread among the lesser Greek clergy and in most cases the local priest married and raised children, one of whom might well succeed his father as the village priest. This in fact was usually encouraged and is still the case in many Eastern Orthodox Churches today.

 

In the West celibacy among priests was initially encouraged and finally made compulsory in the 12th century[23]. However, although the same spiritual principles were invoked to justify this decision, the main reason for the change seems to have been financial rather than spiritual. Uunmarried Priests could be expected to leave their personal assets to the Church after death, whilst those who were married would leave their property to their children. At least partly as a result of this decision the Latin Church became increasingly wealthy over the next few centuries. It acquired great estates and magnificent buildings, as well as gold and other wealth all of which contributed to the magnificence of the Roman Curia and the medieval decadence that led to the Reformation[24], a problem that was largely avoided in the East.

 

However, the biggest problem with this doctrine is that, because it denies the importance of women in the spiritual life of the Church, it has led to a denigration of marriage as a Sacrament.  It has also resulted,in most modern churches either refusing to allow women to take any major role in worship, or trying to get them to play the same role as men, neither of which is appropriate and certainly does not continue the Apostolic Tradition.

 

 

Apostolic Authority

 

In the Early Church, Apostolic Authority had always been regarded as essential in any Church, and it was not until after the Great Schism between the Greek- and Latin-speaking Churches that this was first seriously challenged by the Waldenses in the 12th to 16th centuries and the Lollards from the 14th onwards. When Constantinople fell in the Turks in the 15th and the Renaissance burst over Western Europe, these minor rumblings errupted into the Reformation proper.

 

The actual dispute pitted the often-abused Apostolic Authority of the generally worldly clergy of the Latin Church against well-educated and usually sincere lay scholars. In general most clergy and certainly most senior clergy refused to join the new movement, and at least partly as a result of this lack of bishops[25], the Reformers by and large, turned to the Bible as their source of spiritual authority.

 

This Bible was basically the same as that which had been used throughout the Western Church for a thousand years, but translated yet again, this time into the vernacular. In other words it was a collection of books that had themselves been selected and edited by the Apostolic Authority of previous bishops. Obviously this was at best a compromise position, but since that time, Protestants in general have invested this Bible with all the Authority previously accorded to the successors of the Apostles.

 

Obviously one cannot dispute the value of the Bible as a source of inspiration, any more than did the Apostles themselves. However, parts of the the Bible can be interpreted in many different ways and because it uses the Bible as its only source of authority, Protestantism quickly fragmented into many different sects. Furthermore it is plain that ALL ELSE BEING EQUAL a priest or bishop who speaks with the Inspiration and Authority of Christ will be better able to interpret the Bible correctly than one who, lacking that authority can only rely his own intellect[26] as do Protestant scholars.

 

 

The Sacraments

 

The Early Protestants rejected many Church teachings but perhaps the most serious of the changes they made was the abolition of the Sacraments, that for a millennium and a half had been the spiritual life of the Church. Most were rejected completely, although some Protestants still speak of two – Baptism and Communion - but they have removed many key parts of both rites and do not believe in their spiritual and mystical aspects. In Baptism the most obvious change is the abolition of exorcism and anointing, whilst where Communion is concerned they do not believe in transubstantiation at all and see the service merely as a commemoration of Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary.

 

 

Heaven or Hell & Nothing Else

 

Another modification that developed mainly from the 16th century onwards is the belief that after death the soul can only pass to either Eternal Heaven or Eternal Hell[27]. Before that time a belief in an intermediate state, called Purgatory (See above) modified this Zoroastrian doctrine within Western Christianity but during the Reformation even this simplified concept was rejected.up with another delaying idea.  Today many Protestants see no choice but Heaven or Hell – in other words, those that do ill will go to Hell and there be tormented for ever, whilst those who do good will go to Heaven. The ultimate problem with this concept is the fact that the dividing line has to be drawn somewhere and nobody can claim to say just where this is. Consequently instead of welcoming death as a merciful release from the struggles of earthly life, or even seeing it as the precursor to Eternal Life as did those who believed in the Authority of the Church to allow them to enter therein, most Protestants, even those who were quite devout, came to see Death as at least potentially the Gateway to Hell, and developed a terrible fear of it.

 

This fear has become endemic in Western Society, largely as the result of the loss of the Ancient Knowledge of Life After Death and of the availability of Reincarnation for those who failed to reach their Goal. But instead of restoring these teachings, many Protestant groups introduced another modification to this grim choice of Heaven or Hell. Perhaps in an attempt to obscure the sharpness of the distinction but without restoring a belief in any form of Intermediate state, they introduced a novel concept.

 

 

The Dead in a Coma

 

This idea suggests that the dead will not pass to Heaven or Hell immediately after their deaths – rather they will remain in some form of suspended animation or coma an idea that of course completely ignores all the Biblical referenes to ghosts or spirits of the dead, It is suggested that this state will persist until a Day of Resurrection an idea that is certainly older than Christianity and probably much older. It exists in the works of many pre-Christian philosophies in various forms, but it has basically been seen as a time of judgement – one rises to judgement just as on earth one might be called to approach the bench of a Court for sentence. Within  Christianity, Resurrection and Judgement have usually been seen under two different guises – as a personal judgement taking place immediately after death when one is raised in one’s new spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15; 44) and as a general Judgement of both the Living and the Dead at the Second Coming of Christ, when one is raise up in that Spirit Body to see if it will be glorified still further.

 

Obviously both of these views are basically correct, though many of the fanciful details that are sometimes added to them are clearly imaginary. We are all judged or assessed continuously, in the sense that the karma we bring upon ourselves comes upon us, but at key points in our journey, such an assessment is more general. In particular, such a judgement comes whenever we begin our new life on the Astral or Spirit Planes, or perhaps it would be better to say that we all judge ourselves at that time, we see wherein we have failed, and are shown what we will need to do to correct our errors.

 

In a broader sense it is also true that at key points in world history a more widespread judgement takes place, when both nations and individuals are assessed – empires rise and fall, so-called natural disasters decimate provinces, or famine or disease affects whole continents. But the most significant of these great Judgements are those which are linked with the Visits of the Salvator. Then the whole world is judged and all those in it, as are also the souls in the Astral and Spirit Planes. In fact as Christ descends to those realms before He comes to earth they are judged first (1 Thessalonians 4; 16) though obviously there is not a lot of time between one and the other.

 

However, beginning after the Reformation and peaking in the 19th century a number of groups chose to ignore the first of these “judgements” or to see it merely as a prelude to a period of suspended animation, and then to consider that that “sleep” would only cease with the Last Judgement at Christ’s Coming, which in many cases they linked with the end of the world. (And as most of them do not believe that there is life on other planets, with the end of time as well!) Such groups may well have persuaded their followers that none of their loved ones are yet in Hell, but merely sleeping,[28] but they will have done little to assuage the fear of death or the grief of those who think that they have lost their loved ones for ever. As a result many of their members either come to resent and reject those teachings, and often with them, all desire for religion, or by accepting them may welll retard their own potential future spiritual development.

 

 

Summary

 

Today, for the most part, Western Society has outgrown the need for the crude concepts of Medieval Christainity and most of its members are many lives past the need for such a blatant attempt to scare them into righteousness, but there is no doubt that such harsh views may well have played a role in the training of primitive souls after the Fall of the Last Age. Therefore, although the earnest seeker will obviously reject most of thes ideas let us realise that each had played its part in the spiritual development fo the human race, and extend our love and tolerance to any who still find it hard to look beyond them.  

   



[1]

There are basically similar references in the other synoptic Gospels (St Matthew 24; 34 & St Mark 13; 30) and all were seen to refer to the return of Christ before that Generation had passed away.

[2]

Basically this sees His return as mirroring His departure, even as the Angels said at that time (Acts 1; 11) In other words, that He will rematerialize out of a cloud just as He dematerialized into one, assuming a form basically the same as that which He had last time – a Man in his thirties Who could be touched and handled and eat solid food.

[3]

Even its opponents usually acknowledged that the Founder of Christianity was a historical Person in the first couple of centuries.

[4]

Even today the Chinese Buddhists recognise a Female Mother deity, whilst the Taoist Kuan Yin though sometimes identified with the Virgin Mary occupies such an important position that it seems to indicate that a knowledge of the Female  Aspect of the Godhead reached China with the first Persian missionaries in the 6th and 7th centuries.  

[5]

And in some philosophies, within animal souls, too!

[6] 

Either 3000, 6000 or 9000 years before - the theology is subject to various interpretations, but an “Age” was seen to be 3000 years long. The variation comes from various ways of determining exactly how many ages before the time of Zoroaster the earth was actually created.  .

[7]

These anathamatisms of Justinian are well worth studying, for they indicate that many of the basic concepts of God’s great Plan for Creation had been previously understood by the Early Christian Church, but were specifically rejected at this time. Although as one might expect from anathematisms they presented such concepts critically and in a very garbled form they clearly indicate that some knowledge of the whole process of the descent of the Spark from God through the various Angelic realms and its return through those same Planes to ultimate Union with the Godhead was available at that time. It also suggests that belief in perpetual damnation was only just becoming accepted at this date, that the difference between devils and demons was still recognised and that it had been realised that Christ became an Angel among Angels, a Power among Powers, etc., as well as a man among men, during the course of His Descent to earth. All these ideas are however repudiated by Justinian through these anathamatisms.

[8]

Justinian had re-conquered Italy in the 6th century, but instead of elevating the bishop of Rome to his accustomed position in the Church hierarchy, he established his regional capital at Ravenna whose Archbishop thus came to regard the Bishop of Rome as merely one of his subordinates. Although this situation did not persist for long, the Roman ecclesia have neither forgotten nor forgiven Justinian.

[9]

On several occasions in Pseudoclement, St Peter refers to the role of Satan in God’s plan. In its present form this book dates from the 3rd century and even if its theology is that of St Peter’s day it is hard to suggest that it would have been retained if it was totally unacceptable in the Third.

[10]

That this was the original Jewish belief is undoubtred. The earliest books of the Old Testament, particularly Genesis and Job show him as tempting man, but only as God permits. Even in the time of the Kings  (1 Kings 22) the vision of Micaiah makes it clear thast this was still the view of those who served Jehovah, but after the time of Zoroaster and especially after Judah was restored to a semi-autonomous state by his Persian followers, their idea of an anti-god gradually began to influence Jewish thought.

[11]

In the Book of Revelation (chapter 12; 10) Satan is called “the accuser of our brethren” and in fact “Accuser” is the meaning of the word “Satan” in Hebrew.

[12]

It is self-contradictory because if God made Satan perfect, how did he sin, whilst if God created him imperfect, the sinning was clearly derived from that imperfection and therefore caused by God Himself.

[13]

Effectively it did this by allowing people to believe that Grace was granted as a result of attending the Sacraments especially Communion and Confession thereby inferring that it could be earned by attendance. Whilst this was certainly not the whole truth, it was, like so many medieval teachings a part truth. However, as in so many matters, at the Reformation the Protestants rejected the spiritual value of Sacraments and thus exposed the weakness in the underlying theology.

[14]

As expressed this is the Protestant view. The Catholics do pray for the dead, but by inference only for those in Purgatory that the process of the purging of their sins may be speeded up. They consider those who are in Hell to be beyond any help just as do the Protestants.

[15]

In the Afterlife, the full range of experiences from Heaven to Hell may be encountered, as the Orthodox suggest, but such experiences are designed to help the soul to pay off debts and continue its progress as the Catholics aver. Thus each Church retains a portion of the truth, but they are different portions and each is only a small part of the whole.  

This is the effect of the Greek theory of Reproduction..

[18]

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Part One; see under the year 33 A.D.

[19]

What Luther actually derived was an approximate date for the earliest parts of Genesis, and as such it is remarkably accurate. The great Flood of Mesopotamia, upon which the story of Noah is based, is usually dated to about this time, and there is little evidence that any of the early parts of Genesis date from a much earlier date, even in oral form.  As the invention of writing seems to have taken place afterwards, they can hardly have been written down before then!

[20]

And as we also say! “The One became Two, Male and Female” and from They Twain the Son was Begotten and Conceived before all worlds. (Before the Universe was Created).

[21]

The only real difference is that in Gnosticism an Emanation is seen to be slightly inferior to that from which it emanated, and thus a form of Creation from the Divine  substance. By contrast in Christian theology the Three Persons of the Trinity were always seen to be identical in Substance and Nature.

[22]

This teaches us a very important lesson – that tradition always has a value, and if we do not know what that value is, we should never change it – certainly not without a very good reason.

[23]

This happened at the First Lateran Council in 1123, which was the first major Council of the Roman Church after the Great Schism with Orthodoxy.

[24]

Undoubtedly it was not the sole cause, but it should be noted that in the Orthodox Churches , where the priests were married, no corresponding movement developed.

[25]

In England the support of the King did bring many bishops to the Reformers and even today the Anglican Church maintains an ecclesiastical system that claims Apostolic Authority, though the validity of its orders is officially rejected by the Romans. 

[26]

The Bible certainly does not contradict any of the Ancient Wisdom, but unlike Protestants, true Seekers do not rely solely upon it, rather they seek to utilise the same Apostolic Authority as those who wrote it.

[27]

Even Protestants usually accept that the ancient Jews did not believe in Eternal Damnation for there is too much Biblical evidence to the contrary. For instance, David said “thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” (Psalm 16; 10) They have, however suggested that things have changed since then – that the coming of Christ although it made it easier to get to Heaven, has also mean t that those who do not choose to follow Him will have no further chance of salvation after death.

[28]

A variation on this theme denies the immortality of the soul and suggests that those who fail will not go to Hell, but instead will be finally and irrevocably wiped out of existence. Another variation replaces the idea of Heaven with some sort of eternal physical Paradise and clearly, nothing physical can be eternal!

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