Mystery School member Faith writes:
One author that I have read and gained a lot of insight from is the late Alvin Boyd Kuhn. I imagine that you have read some of his works, too. What he revealed about the Christ being â€œthe fire of Divine Intelligenceâ€ distributed among all of humanity, I believe is true. He explained that all of the myths of antiquity are depictions of the descent (incarnation), evolution in matter (Mother), and ascent (resurrection) of the Christ (the Sun of God) in us, as us. This being the meaning of the Gospel stories, I wonder whether or not Jesus and the Apostles were actually historical people. I understand that â€œthe living Jesusâ€ of the Gospel of Thomas was the Cosmic Christ, not a particular human being.
Hi Faith! Good thought-provoking questions. You have hit upon the historicity of Jesus argument long debated by theologians and historians since the writing of the New Testament. In the past 200 years the Myth vs. Historical Jesus debate has raged with new fervor. It’s fascinating.
I abscribe to the JRR Tolkein (Lord of the Rings author) and CS Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia) viewpoint. CS Lewis was struggling with the Jesus myth thinking it was all symbolic, archetypal, etc. and therefore he couldn’t believe it was “real”. His best friend Tolkein told him something very profound. Yes, said he, Jesus is a myth and the fulfilment of myth. An archetype bearer. But Jesus’ story is a myth that also happens to be true…historical. In other words, BOTH are true! This is why the debaters can’t solve this issue, because they are both right.
It’s like an onion. Each layer is “real” separately but they are part of a whole truth. The whole onion. Dream interpretation can be that way, too. Dreaming your brakes went out and you can’t stop your car can mean you should literally check your brakes — this could be your intuition warning you of a physical danger. AND it can mean that you are a bit out of control in your waking life and need to figurately “put the brakes on” regarding some issue or situation in life. We would ask the dreamer, how are you going too fast, how do you need to slow down and get control, get safe? So both interpretations can be true simultaneously. Like God can be real in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm if She chooses. It’s cool! Goddess came as Mother Mary — Mary was an archetype-bearer of Sophia or God-the-Mother. And Magdalene and Yeshua also bore archetypes. They “actualized” the male and female wise-teacher god/goddess Krishna, Buddha archetypes or entities.
>The ancient Gnostics deplored those who believed the gospels as literal history.
I have always read that there were 200 or more Gnostic sects and they were about 50-50 on the historicity argument. In other words, some Gnostics believed and taught he had come in the flesh — perhaps they had great grandmothers who had been healed by him or heard one of his famous sermons, etc. The Mandeans are a Gnostic sect still alive today in Iraq and they believe firmly in the historicity of Jesus. They think he stole the messiah-ship from John the Baptist, but they believe they were all historical characters! I have studied Valentinian and Sophian Gnosticism and enjoy it very much. Valentinus certainly believed Jesus was historical. But the Sophians seem to have clergy who believe one way or the other depending on personal preference. They need to merge the opposites — do the Zen on it(!) and realize that BOTH are true. Yes he was a Sun-god myth and Dying-resurrecting God and yes Christianity is/was a cool solar “cult”. But. He also got himself a body and walked around this earth awhile, just like Buddha and Aristotle did. Wisemen who lived centuries before Jesus — and made their mark on earth even bigger a mark than Jesus some could argue! — yet they are never thought to be un-historical, or myth-only.
>These ideas have me feeling uncertain concerning the ideas concerning Jesus and Mary Magdalene implied in the lessons and suggested readings at the Esoteric Mystery School.
You are not the first member who has brought up this discussion with me. Our Catechumen Lessons, most of them, are quite old. We’ve been using them for years with a bit of overhaul here and there, but I am wondering if I need to address the myth vs. historical debate — that BOTH are “true” — right from the start. What do you think? Where specifically do you think in the Catechumen lessons maybe we are emphasizing too much of the historical Jesus and not reminding folks of his mythical cosmical (is that a word?!) function/fulfillment? I mean, what was it — besides the fact we recommend members read Holy Blood Holy Grail (HBHG) — that got you feeling uncertain, as you put it?
>As symbols of elements of our Being they inspire us to lovely virtues and ideals, and faith in our inner powers. But if the stories are regarded as historical, I can easily see how the ideas in the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, developed among literalist people over the centuries. A bloodline of Jesus misses the whole point of Gnostic teachings, which is the Inner Christ nature which is being brought to birth within us as children of the Father-Mother.
Oh so true about HBHG making people go LOOPY when they think of the literalism of it. Margaret Starbird herself says the bloodline thing is a huge distraction, a big red herring that makes people miss the point just as you say. She says believing/realizing Jesus was a lover and a co-parent in the physical realm is enough. We don’t also have to believe his descendants are alive today. Too much ego gets in there — and too much insanity. I get emails ALL the time from people thinking they are one of them.
If only that bloodline hype hadn’t mired us in the physical so much after some decades of being “only” in the spiritual / mythical realm. Hah. Margaret told me once that the bloodline nonsense really muddies the waters and I believe it can be a stumbling block big-time. So you are definitely on to something, yet I still “confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh,” as the test of spirits tests for….
Funny and lucky how we can believe in both. It’s so very Zen…
I think much of this Jesus-was-just-a-cool-myth is an understandable backlash against obnoxious churchianity insisting one BELIEVE in Jesus, â€œACCEPTâ€ him, believe, believe, BELIEVE in him! Ugh. Many free-thinking people are put off by this extreme mind manipulation. Believe like me or you will DIE. Uh, no thanks we say. Knowing instinctively that their lopsided Jesus never did exist, we then kinda throw the baby out with the bathwater and say well, I guess he never was an historical person at all! These goof-ball fanatics have sure scared me away from being down-to-earth about this.
There are so many cool Zen masters that everyone knows by name. And dozens of inspiring wandering rabbis, teachers, mystical rabbis. There are Buddhist sages and Hindu sages galore who lived at the time of Jesus and before that nobody doubts whether they existed or not. Itâ€™s because those sages arenâ€™t being singled out and shoved down our throats, arenâ€™t being used as a weapon. Even King Arthur is said to have existed although they know there were several characters whose stories may have been compiled to make his myth. The King Arthur myth is mythology, but he still probably was based on a real live man. Some say even Osiris was perhaps a real Pharoah way back in Egyptâ€™s distant pre-historical origins. The Gods and Goddesses of the Northern Europeans may have been real people, or used real people just after we emerged from the last Ice Age.
Jesus gets the most attention because he has taken the most abuse! Manipulative control-freaks have hijacked his story, name and his teachings for such a long time. They are really turning a lot of us off. Fact is, Jesus was a liberator, a Zen-master sage dude whose true message and teachings have been all but lost. I think we can find the real teachings there under the layers of churchianity, and I think what he taught is very inner, very esoteric, at least semi-gnostic, and completely alternative to the extroverted â€œmundaneâ€ un-mystical mainstream.
Ya gotta have Faith, like your magikal name. <grin> Yet you also gotta resist insulting your free will, not to mention your intelligence!, by this oppressive mainstream beast best called by the name “Churchianity”.
4 thoughts on “Jesus “just” a myth or historical? –OR BOTH?”
Thank you for sharing your blog conversation.
The problem I have with the “Jesus was just a myth” version (a.k.a. “Gnostic” view) is that it disembodies Jesus. His suffering on the cross and victory in death become meaningless if it’s all just a story. I have a son who told me when he was about eleven years old that I didn’t need to get emotionally involved at the movies because it was all “just pretend.” The blood was just ketchup…. If Jesus didn’t come “in the flesh” then there is no way he can provide us the model and the “way” for becoming a “perfected human being” (“anthropos”– mentioned in the ending of the Gospel of Thomas). Several epistles in the Christian canon insist on Jesus having come “in the flesh”–so it’s not just the Gospels that assert his “full humanity”: Paul says: “…His son who was born… according to the flesh of the offspring of David” (Romans 1:3); and elsewhere in the Epistles: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4); “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1); “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose…” (1 Peter 4). The Gospel of Philip (written 180-250–which some consider a “Gnostic” Gospel) says that Jesus was form the seed of Joseph the carpenter!–
If we rob Jesus of his full humanity (like us in all things …), he has no blood in his veins and becomes nothing more than a parable. This is why the Church has always insisted that Jesus was fully human– while denying that he had a fully human wife and consort. The “Gnostics” and especially the Docetists disembodied both Jesus and Mary, reducing them to “enlightened teachers”–but denying their “flesh and blood” humanity. This is really at odds with the Jewish traditions from which Jesus sprang which insisted that in order to be a rabbi (teacher!) a man had to be over 30 years old and married–to prove that he was mature and had experienced something of life before he tried to instruct others.
love and light,
Woman With the Alabaster Jar
Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile
I’ve come across several discussions online of what it means to be “gnostic.” I think it’s important to remember that most of what we have from the Gnostics of the era of the Early Church Fathers was the writings of the early church fathers specifically against the Docetic Gnostics. As such, say the word “gnostic” today, and people tend to imagine ONLY Docetism – as if Docetism were the major category, with all other Gnostic sects being under its umbrella.
I was one whose conservative-to-moderate Christian seminary education formerly led him to believe this was the case. I have since been pleased to discover there are individuals out there who call themselves Christian Gnostics who whole-heartedly believe that Christ has come in the flesh. He was the One embodied to live the Great Myth – the firstborn among many brethren. And, yes They believe this while also believing that the Eternal Christ – the Logos – is â€œthe fire of Divine Intelligenceâ€ distributed among all of humanity as well. We, for I include myself in their number, challenge ourselves with the idea that perhaps Jesus of Nazareth is what it means to be “the Anointed One,” the “Son of Man,” of the Eternal Logos.
This discussion has reminded me of a passage of the Gospel of the Egyptains that was quoted by Clement of Alexandria
When Salome asked when the things would be known that she asked about, the Lord said, “When you have trampled on the garment of shame and when the two become one and the male with the female is neither male nor female.”
Gospel of the Egyptians, quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 3.13.92
The docetic position it seems to me in a sense is akin to aceepting the male Logos while denying the validity of the female Sophia. As Professor Starbird eloquently pointed out in the Woman with the Jar the sacred feminine cannot thrive without its counterpart the sacred feminine just as the sacred masculine is rendered impotent without the sacred feminine.
This idea reaches as far back as ancient Egypt consider the case Geb and Nut who were forcibly separated on orders of Re. Yet, the seperation rendered them both barren and impotent.
I like how almost everyone just accepts humans are the chosen species. dont think so. Woo! that would be pretty convienent wouldnt it? almost as much as me being able to spell, but anyway… what makes us the chosen race, what makes it so that the whole universe was made just for us. No, i really don’t think so. We are just another animal, a highly functioning animal albiet, but an animal nonetheless. Then where did we come from? Hell if i know! I beleive we evolved, yes evolved a THEORY with tons of supporting evidence. But hey, even gravity was only a theory until we went to the moon, because it has to be tested under every possible condition. So i beleive all animals today came from a common ancestor is the evolutionary timeline. I also think no human being truely knows what made all matter, the idea of time and space, or anything else. Just like you cant teach an ant how to read and write, humans cant comprehend the meaning of life, or such things. We arent the chosen species of “god” or whatever, we are just another animal, possibly with a purpose, which we may or may not fulfill. So maybe there is a god afterall maybe there isnt, no human being currently knows the answer.