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Judaism is a revealed religion that forbids any addition to or modification of the initial revelation given directly by God to certain chosen emissaries such as Moses and Solomon. The Torah cannot be altered or amended, but certain Jewish mystics believed that they could read the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet like a secret code and thus access further revelations from the Deity. The esoteric knowledge they developed was preserved in a complex system called the Cabala. (Modern version of the Cabalistic Tree of Life. From Kabbalah by Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Thames & Hudson, 1992)

Cabala Literally, “tradition, legacy.” Also spelled Kabbalah and Qabala.

A vast and obscure system of mystical teachings consisting of a model of creation (the “Tree of Life”) and a complex language of symbols intended for developing access to God or the supreme Godhead, called Ain Soph Aur, “Supreme and Single Golden Wisdom Light.”

The origins of the Cabala are as obscure as some of its teachings. Its current form was defined by Moses de Leon in the 13th century, but it certainly derives from a long hidden tradition among the ancient Hebrews. Study of the Cabala and arduous exertion in the practices it involves are said to lead to a direct, ever-new and ever-changing revelation of God. In this sense, Cabala is a heretic system opposed to the fundamentalist belief that God was contacted at certain times in the past by certain chosen emissaries, such as Moses, to whom was given a primordial revelation of truth that cannot be changed or improved.


Christos From the Greek verb khriein, "to anoint." Literally, "the anointed." Direct equivalent to the Hebrew messiah, a title used for the anointed kings in ancient Jewish religion, and retained in specific reference to the Messiah, the awaited savior, the spiritual hero and judge.

When shortened to Christ, this is certainly the most problematic and misleading term in world religion. Discerning the Gnostic Christos from the Christian Christ is one of the essential tasks we face in recovering the true message of Pagan Mysteries.

The identification of Jesus (human) as "the Christ" (superhuman, divine, "Only-Begotten Son of God) was made by Saint Paul around 75 CE, but the divinity of Jesus Christ was not established as a doctrinal matter until the Nicean Council of 325 CE. At that event, the Emperor Constantine forced the vote so that he could meld his political power with the mystique of a fast-growing new religion, later to be known Christianity. Belief in the divinity of Jesus may be an inspiring and comforting thing to many people, but to the faux-convert Constantine it was savvy political move, a way to underwrite Roman law by divine authority. The Roman Catholic alliance of fascism with salvationist in the Divine Redeemer was to exercise a death-grip on the world for many centuries, and still does, although that grip is failing.

Before Constantine, certain Emperoros had declared themselves divine. They were viewed as arrogant fools by the general public, and rejected as charlatans by Gnostics and others among the Pagan intelligentsia. The claim to divinity of the emperors (the assumption of "divine afflatus," as it was called) was an attempt by the decadent tryants of the failing empire to steal the prestige associated with the telestai, the initiates in the Mysteries; and, to a certain extent, to imitate Alexander the Great, who was the first to attempt this ploy. Constantine was extremely clever in seeing that he could not declare himself divine, but then he didn't have to, because there was a better option: instead of declaring himself a god, he aligned himself with the Christos, the god-man.

The decline of the Mystery Schools after the Augustan Era [29 BCE - 14 CE] was in part due to a massive popular demand for a kind of personal salvation that the Mysteries (being a transpersonal path) did not offer. This demand, in turn, was part of a general movement that arose at the turn of the Age, from Aries to Pisces, around 150 BCE. The Greek astronomer is credited with discovering precession around that time, but in fact, he only disclosed publicly what had been known to initiates for centuries. This disclosure had catastrophic results, because it produced in the masses a false sense of empowerment. The conviction that everyone had a personal fate that could be changed at will was a popular assumption of the time, due to a widespread misunderstanding of the meaning of precession (change in the stars: change of fate). The massive demand for a change of personal fate led to a "New Age" movement, baptism cults, a rage for conversion. The Mysteries were unable to respond to the rampant narcissism of the moment...

One huge factor in this upsurge of narcissism (self-concern) was the emergence in the collective unconscious of a numinous figure or role model for humanity. Eventually, the image of the god-man Jesus Christ was formulated to meet this need, but it did not really satisfy it. It is an inauthentic solution to the human need for a generic sense of humanity, a species identity. Nevertheless, the solution persisted, and, having become ingrown to human dignity, now presents an enormous obstacle to defining and realizing our generic sense of humanity.

In strict usage, the Gnostic Christos ought not to be equated with the Pauline Christ, the Incarnation, or the Joannine Christ, the Word Made Flesh.

The confusion of the Gnostic Aeon Christos with the Christ of doctrinal Christianity is one of the greatest obstacles to a clear understanding of Gnostic cosmology and psycho-mythology.

The Aeon Christos who figures in the Gaia Mythos is not the same as Christ in Pauline-Joannine theology. It is completely wrong to attribute the qualities and powers of "Jesus the Christ" to that Aeon, that Pleromic entity. It is also incorrect to suppose that the true and original teachings of Christianity were Gnostic, and were transmitted by initiates who knew the true identity of the Aeon Christos, but then these teachings came to be twisted and muddled by lesser minds who siezed upon the illuminist message for personal and political gain. The doctrines concerning Christ, as constrasted to the illuminist message about Christos, were perverse from the outset. Christian doctrines of salvation and divine intervention cannot be salvaged by the argument that they contain the germ of true illuminist teachings. Not should they be, in my opinion.

Throughout this site Christos will be used in rigorous and deliberate distinction from Christ.

Radical Gnostic teaching denies that Christ is a superhuman agent, a redeemer sent by the Father God, once and once only. It denies the Incarnation, and challenges the claim that any human or superhuman being can represent humanity. No entity has that privilege. Gnostics taught the recognition of the Anthropos, primal precreated humanity, not Christ in the conventional sense. And Christ does not represent the Anthropos. Humanity as a species represents the Anthropos, but no single entity represents humanity.

Christos in the Pauline cult was derived from the Messiah of Zaddikim ideology: it is a superhuman standard, associated with a deviant and inauthentic model of human potential. The sectarian ideal of Tzaddik implies a formula of absolute righteousness that cannot be judged by human standards. The particular spin of Tzaddik is the demand that humans be held to a superhuman criterion, a model of perfection that originates beyond life on Earth. Since it is impossible to meet this standard, the destruction of humankind is required, yet those who have been faithful to Tzaddik, although falling short of it, will be supernaturally restored to life in an afterworld provided by the Father God.

The diabolical logic of the Qumranic sectarians was carried over intact into Christianity, and the model of supernatural perfection transferred to the figure of Jesus Christ. Today devout Christians believe that JC presents an unattainable ideal — he was, after all, divine before he was human — but in the very act of striving for the impossible we better ourselves as human beings. The imitatio Christi is considered to be a perfectly logical ideal, and, because the operative belief here involves a superhuman being, the ideal has a potent preclusive effect: considering how we might live up to an impossible model, we tend to ignore and discount models that show us what is really possible for our species. In other words the superhuman ideal, although it seems to elevate our sense of human potential, actualy impedes our ability to self-actualize (in Maslovian terms). It cripples our evolutionary development, even as if seems to inspire us to the highest levels of moral and spiritual attainment.

Gnostics recognized that the superhuman ideal of Tzaddik, transferred into the figure of the Divine Redeemer, actually works against humanity's efforts at self-actualization. This erroneous spiritual ideal defeats our true spiritual potential, our capacity to develop the wisdom endowment of nous, divine intelligence. Gnostics attributed this thwarting affect to the scheming of the Archons who insinuate a false ideal in our minds, thus obscuring our innate sense of the true potential of our species.

In the Sophia Mythos, Christos is the Aeon of the Pleroma often coupled with Sophia. In one version of the myth, Christos and Sophia are paired in the Pleroma, making a syzygy, a divine dyad. They are said to emanate the Anthropos, the template for humanity. Hence they are a version of the divine parents (twinned). My retelling of Gnostic cosmology in the Gaia Mythos uses this motif.

In a further development of the Mythos, Sophia is said to have been unable to manage the rampant life-forms that emerged and swarmed over her body once she metamorphosed into the living planet, Earth. Looking on from the galactic rore, the Pleromic gods responded by sending the Aeon Christos into the chaotic matrix of the biosphere. The paraphrase of this episode found in Irenaeus says that Christos "imparted a figure" to Sophia, thus allowing her to bring the rampant species into order. Today we would say that Christos "configured" for Sophia the instinctive intelligence of the myriad species, so that they could become self-sufficient, each type of animal life following its own innate biological program.

The intervention of the Aeon Christos had effects for the entire biosphere, and affected the human species in a particular way as well. See Mijotes.

Christ Complex

civilization From Middle Latin, civis, “a person inhabiting the city.” Hence “ to civilize” means to develop cities and live in cities, although it has come to mean something considerably more than that: namely, to endow people with moral principles and inculcate forms of behavior superior to those presumed of savages or uncivilized people. (In Origins under Themes I suggested that civilization is just a fancy name for citification.)

Arguments about how civilization arose are as varied as those about its value, although the latter are apparently more recent. Plato assumed a high value for civilization, epitomized for him in the legend of Atlantis and represented in his time by the effete, male-only intellectual milieu of Athens.

Many beliefs are attached to the question of how civilization originated. Among conventionally minded historians it is widely believed that the first civilizations arose in the Middle East and Egypt around 4500 BCE, but Marija Gimbutas, Riane Eisler, Stan Gooch, James Mellart and other, more radically minded historians have presented evidence to support the belief that civilized societies, rather than full-blown urban centers, date from as much as three thousand years earlier.

Beliefs about how civilization began are hotly debated, and equally so, of late, are beliefs about its value. The debate splits drastically into pro and con: those who believe that civilization is the greatest achievement of the human species, and those who believe it is a grave pathological deviation. One of the leading voices among the latter group is Stanley Diamond. In In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization, he offered this view:

The crisis in the Western world and its imperial hinterlands, which is also the crisis of humanity, cannot be confined to social, economic or technological “problems”; it inheres in our definition, our very understanding of man. We live in what we pridefully call civilization, but our laws and machines have taken on a life of their own; they stand against our spiritual and physical survival.

(Cited in Jensen, L, 268)

Speaking rather more bluntly, naturalist and author John A. Livingston says: “Civilization cripples the mind and cripples the heart by offering humanistic ideology in place of our evolved naturalness or wildness.” (Ibid., p. 56) Both Diamond and Livingston express the belief that civilization is harmful to the essential nature of our species, not to mention other species, animal and plant, which homo sapiens must consume to the point of extinction in order to sustain its civilized way of life.

In his Laws, Plato advised the exclusion of poets from the ideal society. This is a crucial clue to civilization because it implies that the poetic-visionary mode of knowledge (represented by the mythic image of Tree and Well) must be excluded if a high degree of social organization is to be achieved.

Yet it can also be argued that poetic-visionary knowledge is what really sustains, enlivens and renews human culture through the course of time.

The evidence from native-mind cultures that have survived for thousands of years, such as the Australian Aborigines, shows unequivocally that long-term survival in tribal society depends upon the continuity of shamanic tradition.

The shaman (who may be a woman or a man) is the poet and seer who preserves and renews the wisdom of the species. The suggestion that such wisdom must be excluded for civilization to arise raises some troubling reflections.

compound belief: combines various modes of belief in the same syndrome.

Example: political beliefs in the Arab world are often associated with the theocratic imperative of Islam and the imposition of shariya, Islamic law. Addressing the world press, leaders of the Taliban state unequivocally that there is no division between religion and politics in the Islamic state. The combination of religion and politics makes for a heady mix of compound belief. This mix is already devastating, but when you add to it racial and sexual scripts coded with other beliefs you have compound belief in a dense and nefarious amalgamation. In compound belief each element reinforces the other, making this mode of believing enormously difficult to refute.

Second example: The "troubles" that have plagued Northern Ireland for close to 40 years are largely incomprehensible to the outside world, and not easily understood even by those who have grown up with them. Historical, racial, religious, political and familial beliefs combine in a dense knot of compond beliefs. The composition can vary from one neighborhood to the next, and all variations are practically impenetrable to reasoned inquiry. The popular label for this dangerous mix is "sectarian." From Ireland to Iran to Indonesia, violence driven by belief-based sectarian hatred fuels social conflict and turns community living into a nightmare.

Sectarian hatred is often based on compound beliefs that cannot be renounced by those who hold them, mainly due to the fear of jeopardising some precious component of the personality (say, racial identity, or religious piety, or political affiliation). Compound beliefs thrive on complexity. In Northern Irelaand the grip of compound belief is so intense that it has given rise to a joke, "If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s happening." This joke expresses the deep exasperation of people who realize tragically that they cannot see beyond the enmeshment of the compound beliefs that drive them.

For a complete list of permutations of belief see Modes of Believing.

concerns Ultimate considerations based on the four relations that pertain between the God, Nature and Humanity.

All religious ideas and doctrines, all metaphysical and theological concepts, all beliefs in the category of spirituality and ethics, are variations of four ultimate concerns about the relations pertaining between three entities:

    1, Concern for the relation of Humanity to Nature.

    2, Concern for the relation of God to Nature.

    3, Concern for the relation of Humanity to God.

    4, Concern for the relation of Humanity to itself.

These relations invoke ultimate concern because they frame and determine all lesser issues that present deep and perennial anxiety for human existence. Whenever we say “I am concerned,” it generally means there is something important at stake. With the ultimate concerns, ultimate matters are at stake. To enter deeply into what it means to be human is to be concerned about these four relations, as if life itself depended upon them, and in the case of 1, it does. If we do not give careful attention to defining and nurturing these concerns, human experience falls apart at the seams.

Life in the natural world depends inarguably on concern 1, but the meaning of life for the human species seems largely to depend on concerns 2, 3 and 4. Without responses to these concerns the human species does not seem to be able to function. Inevitably the responses that develop are converted into "answers" that purport to satisfy the countless questions arising from these monumental concerns. If the answers are true or untrue does not matter. What is crucial, what is absolutely essential, is that the concerns be acknowledged and the responses formulated in some kind of story-narrative, teaching or doctrine. Providing the answers has long been the calling of religion. Since the Enlightenment, science has edged into the field. Today both science and religion purport to respond in their own ways to these ultimate concerns.

The two mainstream religions that have most decisively shaped historical events over the last 2000 years are Judaism and Christianity, with Islam assuming a comparable role after 600 CE. Currently the world population of believers is divided between some billions of Christians and some billions of Muslims. These two huge factions are at odds for various reasons, so there is talk of a "conflict of civilizations," but more correctly it is a conflict of ideologies. And these ideologies, we must note, share the same origin. Hence the designation, Abrahamic religions.

Among the differences that divide Christians and Muslims perhaps the most controversial one is the issue of Israel. This is passing strange (here I ironise) because Judaism is the common root of Islam and Christianity. All three religions share the same ideology but in each it is doctrinally inflected in different ways. Although the numbers of believers in Judaism is not great, Hebrew religion remains the central issue in the world-encompassing drama we call history. Since 9/11 Muslims and Christians are sharply divided over how to view the political and ideological claims of Jewish religion as reflected in the status of the State of Israel.

In the metahistorical view each of the three mainstream religions can be defined by the ultimate concern it focalizes. Christianity focalizes concern about the relation of Humanity to God. The central figure in Christian religion is Jesus Christ, who is regarded as the single and supreme intermediary between God and Humanity. Being both human and divine, the Savior embodies and preserves the relation of the human species to the Creator. Everything in Christian belief centers on this ultimate concern, case 3.

Judaism focalizes concern on the relation of God to Nature, to the natural world, for it is by the Deity’s transcendence of the natural world that God is monotheistically defined in the first place. If the presence of Deity is immanent in the world and actually merged with Nature, then there are Gods, not a single God who stands outside nature. The definition of God as the world-transcending creator, or, to say the same thing the other way around, of Nature as the handiwork of a supernatural Deity, originates in Judaism and remains its hallmark. Case 2 represents the ancient Hebraic concern primarily for the relation of God to Nature, and secondarily for the relation of Humanity to the God so defined. In Judaic beliefs, case 3 is subsequent and consequent to case 2.

The great paradox of Hebrew religion is that it confers supreme importance on concern for the relation of God to Nature and simultaneously ruptures that relation. Or redefines it, if you prefer. The concept of a Creator God consistent with Judaism is only possible to a people who have denied the immanence of God in Nature. It makes sense, then, that the sacred history of the Jews portrays them in constant conflict with Pagan religion, for Paganism highlights case 1, concern for the relation to Humanity to Nature. Pagan beliefs arise from the experience of immanent Divinity, Gods animating nature, and the experience comes through empathy with nature, intimate participation. Through its relation to Nature the human species finds its way to Deity, Divinity. In Paganism, case 3 is subsequent and consequent to case 1. (It could be argued that case 2, concern for the relation of God to Nature, did not exist in Paganism, for God and Nature were regarded as the same.)

Islam is little understood, and perhaps badly understood as well, outside the Muslim world, but it would perhaps help the situation to recognize that Islam highlights concern for the relation of Humanity to itself, case 4. Judaism and Christianity are revealed religions that portray the human condition in supernatural terms, but Islam is a revealed humanism, strange as this may sound. The primary anxiety of Islam is repeatedly expressed in the Koran, not so much in particular passages as in the overall tonality: humanity has become so corrupted that humans no longer how to be human. The Koran states the problem in terms of case 4, and then proposes the solution: obediance to the dictates of Allah will restore the benighted human species to behaviour consistent with its essential dignity.

Islam means submission, pure and simple. Since 9/11 a good many Westerners have taken this point on board, but something is missing from this basic and literal definition. To what do Muslims submit? To the will and wisdom of Allah, conveyed to them through the Koran. Obviously this is the case, but this still does not explain WHY they must submit as they do. Consistent with concern about humanity’s relation to itself, believers in Islam must submit to superhuman wisdom as the consequence of seeing how corrupted humanity is, how incapable we humans are of treating each other like human beings. They submit to Allah because their overwhelming concern for inhumanity compels them to do so. Muslims feel a huge surge of superiority in "submission" because they understand that their beliefs address the concern of case 4 in ways the other two mainstream religions do not. This explains why Muslims believe that Islam is the great and insuperable force for social change on earth. The strength of their belief is proportionate to the acuity of their perception of the problem for which Islam uniquely provides the answer. That is revealed humanism. Ironically, it is humanism based on the perception of a corrupted humanity.

Finally, it could be argued that in the doctrine of the Fall Christianity also addresses the problem of a corrupted humanity. Yes, it does, but it puts emphasis on case 3 not case 4. In Christian religion humanity is corrupt because its relation to God has been broken off or betrayed (due to the sin of the first parents, so the story goes). In Islam humanity is regarded as corrupt due to our relations to each other. For Muslims the interactions that determine the social rapport of the species are rotten, degenerate, and dysfunctional. Looking at the condition of the "global community" post-2000 CE, it is difficult to deny the truth in this observation.

conflicted belief: contains contradictory and opposing elements that confuse the believer.

Example: in the Old Testament Jehovah both favors and tortures the Chosen People. The ancient Hebrews believe they are God's privileged ones, yet God continually subjects them to tribulations and ordeals. In this example, the two conflicting elements of belief are closely fused. The rationale developed around this contradiction states that it is those most favored by God whom God tests most rigorously. This rationale in turn engenders a deeply felt belief in the moral superiority of the victim, a belief central to the Judaeo-Christian ethic. This is perhaps the supreme example of conflicted belief. When conflict arises out of a single belief it may be called conflictual in the first degree.

Example: In science the belief that the human species has risen to the summit of evolution conflicts with the belief that the same species inhabits a speck-of-dust planet circulating around an average-sized star floating in an infinite void. The first belief stresses the importance of humans being evolutionary forerunners, but the second belief reduces human life to insignificance. In this case two we see the conflict of two different beliefs held within the same framework - conflicted belief of the second degree. Nevertheless, the resulting confusion is similar. If we accept the views of science in general - in other words, if we believe that science presents a true view of life - we will be conflicted by the contradictions within science.

For a complete list of permutations of belief see Modes of Believing.

conflictual belief: compels the believer into antagonism toward others.

Example: racial scripts encoded with the belief in the superiority of the white-skinner races (Aryan supremacy) compel the believers to perpetrate harm on other races, if not eliminate them entirely. Colonialism was driven by conflictual belief that produced the genocide of countless millions of native people. More recently, consumerism or globalization (considered by some to be merely an extension and makeover of colonialism) compels those who believe in the "free market economy" to inflict immense social and economic harm on others.

Conflicted belief torments the believer, but conflictual belief compels the believer to torment others.

For a complete list of permutations of belief see Modes of Believing.

conjectural belief. The most banal and superficial form of belief, consisting of nothing more than a supposition or conjecture: "I believe that Democrats are gaining the upper hand." Contrast to core belief (three entries below).

The word belief is used across a wide spectrum of instances. Needless to say, metahistory is concerned with those expressions of belief that run deep into human motivation and condition the sense of meaning at the deepest levels of self-awareness. A conjectural belief is not a true and permanent conviction but merely a passing supposition.

consensual belief: held by consent rather than chosen with deliberation.

We consent to believe what others believe. Here the primary appeal of the belief may consist in the fact that many others hold it. The mainstream religions of the world depend on consensus rather than upon invididual deliberation and choice. To consent to believe something is not to choose to believe it, rather the join company with those who believe it. The primary accent of consensual belief is inclusion in a group.

For a complete list of permutations of belief see Modes of Believing.

consensus-reality: term proposed by Joseph Chilton Pearce for delusional sense of reality engendered by consensus belief.

core belief The type of belief of primary interest in metahistorical analysis, by contrast to conjectural belief (three entries above) and circumstantial belief.

A core belief is a conviction rooted or anchored in one's deepest sense of reality, while a circumstantial belief is the application of a core belief to a particular situation. "I believe that I

corporate belief: belongs to a program or agenda and serves the ends proposed in that program or agenda.

Example: the belief that enticing people to buy things they neither need nor want is necessary to a healthy economy and, as such, a good thing for society. This belief has little meaning outside the system of marketing strategies that it serves. It is incorporated into the system it serves and without that system it has no raison d’être.

Another example: the belief that humans can communicate directly with other species is inherent to some programs of Deep Ecology and New Age nature mysticism. If this belief is held by someone independently of their participation in a larger social agenda, it is not corporate, but as long as it is shared by those who enact such agenda, and seen to be a vital component of their agenda, it is a corporate belief.

For a complete list of permutations of belief see Modes of Believing.


Just think about it! What a tremendous prospect the Gnostics have left us. We are involved in how the intelligence of the earth is consciously integrated into the larger scheme of the galaxy. We ought not to get too inflated about this fantastic prospect, however. After many years of reflection, I am convinced that Gaia-Sophia can achieve correction even if we fail in our opportunity to participate in the process. If She cannot achieve it with and through the human species, She will find another way. This is my humble opinion, anyway. (I suspect that Gnostics ardently debated this question. Some believed that human participation was indispensible to Sophia's correction, while others believed that our involvement was only accessory, and, lacking it, Sophia could manage re-alignment to the Pleroma by other means. I leave the issue open....)

According to the Gnostic origin myth found in Trim. Prot., Sophia's opportunity to achieve Her correction with some kind of unique involvement by humanity is pre-disposed by Her descent. The most we could say, perhaps, is that our co-evolutionary role in Sophia's correction is consistent with Her story from the outset, and if we miss the chance She presents to us, the failure in our part of Her experiment will change that story.


covenant: biblical term for a belief that binds humanity or a select group to the Creator God.

Covenants are traditionally stated in terms of a promise made by God to a select group. The Old Testament records a series of covenants: Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic. The Adamic covenant gives Adam and his descendents dominion over the earth and all other species.

creationism The belief that the world and all it contains are the handiwork of a supreme being who is totally transcendent to it and who produces the world more or less instantaneously, as a manifestation of cosmic will power. This is the “fundamentalist” notion based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. It is often contrasted with the Darwinian scenario of evolution that represents the earth and all its creatures as evolving slowly over long epochs of time without the need for a designing hand or an extra-natural agency.

credibility Trust conferred on the source of a belief, rather than in the substance of the belief itself.

Credibility is highly problematic in metahistorical discourse, because it places the issue of authority before the question of veracity. This shift distracts from clear and direct inquiry into the nature of beliefs. Consider ths example:

In the The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, there is a passage where the art historian Leigh Teabing states a known historical fact: the divinity of Jesus was decided by vote at the first Nicean Council of 325 CE. To be precise, it was decided to make the divinity of Jesus a strict doctrine, to be preached as absolute turth and, if necessary, imposed by force. Another character, the heroine Sophie Neveu, appears to be shocked that the divinity of Jesus Christ was decided by a vote. This is a novelistic way to put into question the common assumption held by Christians, that Jesus was recognized (by some people, at least) as the "Son of God" in his own time and setting.

In response to this fictional ploy (cleverly used here to present a little-known historical fact) Christianity Today published an article by Ben Withingerington III, posted 05/21/04: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/006/7.26.phpl.

In the article, one of many generated by the ongoing debate around the DVC, Witherington states flatly that : "The issue of canon - what books constitute the final authority for Christians - is no small matter." Here, right off the top, he appeals to the credibility of the source (the canon), rather than to the veracity of the beliefs to be considered. When credibility is invoked, the implication is always the same: this is worth believing because it has been deemed believable (by some "authority" or other).

Witherington builds his argument by proposing that certain things were believed about Jesus well before the Nicean Council of 325. "By the time we get to the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus), there is a strong sense of what is and is not sound doctrine, particularly in terms of salvation and the person of Jesus Christ." Coming to the point, he asserts that Paul's letters, the main source of the "Son of God" ideology, were "considered authoritative" already in the end of the 1st Century CE. Thus he counters Dan's Brown tactic of creating the impression that the divinity of Jesus was a bogus attribution, merely decided by vote.

Witherington's case rests on the assumption that a belief considered authoritative by earliest Christians ought to be viewed as true. This shows how the issue of credibility often gets in the way of the critique of beliefs.

For metahistorians, the point is not who believed that Jesus was the Son of God , or when this belief was authoritatively established, but whether or not this belief in itself is sane or insane. Of course, we look closely at the historical perspective. We consider how beliefs emerge, grow and dies over the centuries. But at the end of the day, we live in the present and we ourselves must determine the veracity of a belief, here and now, regardless of the authority or canonical weight attached to it.

Jesus is often considered to have the highest credibility of anyone who ever lived, because he represents the ideal human being, believed by many to be a divine/human hybrid. On this conundrum, Alan Watts writes with typical wit:

We are spiritually paralyzed by the fetish of Jesus. Even to atheists he is the supremely good man, the exemplar and moral authority with whom no one may agree. Whatever our opinions, we must perforce wrangle the words of Jesus to agree with them. Poor Jesus! If he had known how great an authority was to be projected upon him, he would never have said a word. (Beyond Theology, p. 108)

The authority attributed to Jesus is of course a great ploy, an effective device for intimidation. To say anything against Jesus or what Jesus is believed to have said, is to risk looking very bad, indeed. For centuries those who spoke against Jesus, or even against anything that lesser authorities, those who declared themselves "protectors of the faith," said concerning Jesus and his message, were violently suppressed, tortured and killed.

The use of violence to enforce credibility is common to the conquering religions, Christianity and Islam, although it must be said that historically Islam has a better record on tolerance. The formula for the perpetration of righteous violence against those who resist religious authority was laid down in the OT narratives. Although largely fictionalized, theBiblical accounts of the ancient Hebrews committing genocide and wholesale slaughter on various peoples of the ancient Middle East provided the model for later atrocities to be committed by Christians. Although Muslims proved to be more tolerance in their campaigns of conquest, the Koran is devoted by about in page in four to threats and imprecations directed against "infidels," that is, those who doare not credible, not able or willing to believe what the sacred scriptures say.

Thanks to the Salvationist ideology driving American foreign policy since the Reagen era, and following upon the global polarization of Islam VS the West in the wake of 911, CNN and FOX now show images of crowds of Muslims brandishing Korans and pictures of clerics, mullahs and ayatollahs. The fomenting rage of these crowds does not feed on what they believe as much as on who. I the average Muslin cannot explain his own religious beliefs beyond the rote pronouncement of a few cliches - which is likely, and the same can be ssaid for the average Christian, although less so for orthodox Jews, who are fanatical about doctrine - but it hardly matters. The faces in the crown are empowerd by the face on the placard, whose credibity carries the force of divine sanction. Credibility is dangerous stuff.

culture Widely believed to be the highest human achievement, although it may prove to be a dangerous gain for the species, because cultural conditioning can alienate us from our true co-evolutionary potential.

The case against culture has been eloquently made by Joseph Chilton Pearce in his masterwork, The Biology of Transcendence (see Review). Consider also the words of existential philosopher, Ortega y Gasset:

Culture, the purest product of the live and the genuine, since it comes out of the fact that man feels with an awful anguish and a burning enthusiasm the relentless needs of which his life is constructed, ends up by becoming a falsification of life. Man's genuine self is swallowed up by his cultured, conventional, social self. Every culture or every great culture ends in man's socialization, and vice versa; socialization pulls man out of his life of solitude, which is his real and authentic life.(Cited in Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology, p. 390)

Sartre famously declared that "existentialism is a humanism." In the passage cited here, Ortega y Gassett, speaking as an existentialist, displays one of the primary flaws of humanism: omission of the non-human natural setting of human existence, The setting of "real and authentic life" for the human species is not a twilight zone of personal solitude, an existential void, but the vast non-human reaches of the habitat, the wilderness, including plenty of room for moments of solitude!

Since the era of Sartre and the existentialist movement, ecopsychology has arisen in the attempt to correct the humanist deviation, but there is still a considerable way to go before even a small segment of humanity recognizes the need to transcend culture and modes of cultural identity.

cyberhype Proposed term for the widespread exaggeration of claims about informational technology and computer-based innovations.

The overblown pretences of cybernetics are familiar to us all, and taken with straight-faced seriousness by many people, especially those who are flogging the software. The main work of programmers at Microsoft, Apple and Oracle now consists of inventing more things for computers to do, so that the companies that employ them can sell more software for computers to use.

Meanwhile, if we accept the hype, we bury ourselves ever deeper in the illusion that life would be impossible without computers.

cybernaut Current slang for someone who navigates cyberspace (AKA the Internet); i.e., uses a computer to gather information, and, perhaps, explore the mind. But whose mind do we have in mind here?