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6034Re: Greek Mystery Religions

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  • richfaussette
    Sep 8, 2007
      --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, "Jeffrey B. Gibson" <jgibson000@...>
      > "Lisbeth S. Fried" wrote:
      > > Dear All,
      > >
      > > Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate
      participates in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone
      direct me to these?

      The larger question is whether there were **any** gods who were
      thought by the ancients to have died and to have been "resurrected".

      The short answer, relying on the article on "Dying and Rising Gods"
      by J.Z. Smith in Eliade's _Encyclopedia of Religion_ , is that there
      were no such beasties Indeed, the whole category of "dying and rising
      gods" and the assertion that there were such entities in the ancient
      world is a modern scholarly construct.

      Further evidence in support of Smith's claims can be found in PAULINE

      You might also want to have a look at the EoR's article on "Mystery

      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)

      May I suggest that an even more encompassing question is which type
      of dying and resurrection are you all talking about? Are you talking
      about what Crossan calls the life tradition or the death tradition.
      If you are talking about the life tradition, - resurrection while
      alive - it appears in the Rg Veda as Agni, the priest who dons robes
      of fire and makes the self sacrifice. The formula for the ontology of
      the life tradition appears in the Rig Veda in the form of Agni and
      also appears in Buddhism and Genesis and the Nag Hammadi texts.

      The formula for the ordinary human condition is
      "Being + self consciousness = (+ontological anxiety)"

      The formula for the self sacrifice is
      "Being - self consciousness = (-ontological anxiety)

      This formula underlies the religious experience in all the major
      religions and I speculate on its development in Race and Religion: A
      Catholic View in Sam Francis's Race and the American Prospect.

      "In a competitive engagement with men from another family, tribe,
      nation, or race, you have the choice between two absolutes at
      opposite ends of the behavioral range -- you can choose to run or you
      can choose to fight. Individuals can run some of the time and
      survive, but coordinated group behaviors could not have developed in
      human communities if we all ran, every man for himself, from every
      confrontation. Coordinated group behaviors developed when one proto-
      human family refused to run, stood its ground in the face of
      inevitable confrontation, and engaged a common enemy. Since that
      decision was made, the human communities that have excelled in
      competitive engagements with other communities have done so by
      disciplining themselves to face death under the stress of repeated

      A discipline becomes religious when it is taken to its
      logical absolute. When you make the conscious decision to disregard
      your individual self for an ultimate concern, what you believe to be
      the greatest good, you are a religious man. The total commitment of
      what is an ancient and noble warrior's perspective is known by many
      names but is most often called gnosis in the West and enlightenment
      in the East. This very core of all personal religion is a
      recognizable self-sacrifice. Its goal is mastery of the body. Jesus
      called it -- doing the will of the Father. He made very specific
      reference to the self-sacrifice when he said:

      "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life
      in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me but I lay it
      down on my own. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up
      again. This command I have received from my Father." 39

      Catholics say Jesus is one in being with God, his Father.
      Whatever he did was the will of his Father, which was his own will.
      Since he was doing what he chose to do, and was God by definition, we
      must naturally assume his behavior was flawless and intuitive. To
      live perfectly and intuitively is, also by definition, to have
      achieved "gnosis" or to be "enlightened." Regardless of how one may
      philosophize about the significance of Gnosticism vis-à-vis Christian
      doctrine, the technical discipline for achieving gnosis and the
      technical discipline for assuming the self-sacrificial role of a
      Jesus as Christ are identical. The self-sacrifice is a universal. It
      is the common thread that runs through all formal religion, and it
      emerges in the oldest religious texts we have.

      In the Rig Veda, Agni is chosen by the gods to bring the self-
      sacrifice to man. The philosopher Antonio de Nicolas tells us that
      Agni is considered first among the gods and even though Agni is only
      the representative of the gods, he is the leader of the sacrifice,
      and no sacrifice can be efficiently performed without him. An obvious
      analog for the Rig Vedic Agni is in Canon 289 regarding the
      personhood of Jesus Christ. The canon reads, "… The Son of God is
      true God, just as the Father is true God, having all power, knowing
      all things and equal to the Father…" 40

      According to this canon, Jesus is the living representative
      of God and he is "one in being with the Father."41 The definitive act
      of Jesus' life was his sacrifice on the cross. In the earlier Vedic
      hymns, Agni is also the representative of the gods. At the same time
      he is the leader of the gods who brings the self-sacrifice to man and
      he is essential in making a perfect sacrifice.

      Ontologically, Jesus and Agni are identical.

      I'd found the self-sacrifice 4,000 years ago in the Indus
      Valley in the person of Agni and 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem in the
      person of Jesus, but I didn't fully appreciate the worldwide scope of
      the self-sacrifice until D.T. Suzuki introduced me to Zen:

      "The Kamakura era is closely related to Zen, for it was then
      that as an independent school of Buddhism, Zen was first introduced
      to Japan. Many great masters of Zen ruled the spiritual world of the
      time, and in spite of their contempt of learning, learning was
      preserved in their hands. At the same time the soldiers thronged
      about them, eager to be taught and disciplined by them. The method of
      their teaching was simple and direct; not much learning in the
      abstruse philosophy of Zen was needed. The soldiers were naturally
      not very scholarly; what they wanted was to be not timid before
      death, which they had constantly to face."42

      The Japanese warriors sought the self-sacrifice to discipline
      themselves to face death under the stress of repeated engagement. The
      similarities between eastern and western mysticism were due to the
      universality of this self-sacrifice.

      Jesus is remembered in the Stations of the Cross, a series of
      graphic symbols of his self-sacrifice. The Buddha is remembered in
      the woodcuts of the yoking of the ox, symbols for the steps in the
      self-sacrificial path to enlightenment. Jesus uses parables to teach
      religious truths. Zen Buddhists later use koans, literal paradoxes,
      to convey religious truths. The Buddha's enlightenment is attainable
      by all and so is Jesus' Kingdom of God attainable universally though
      faith because the self-sacrifice is a potential within us all.

      The self-sacrifice had traveled to the West by way of
      Zoroaster and to the East by way of the Buddha. Spiritually
      transcending the suppression of the tripartite sacrificial systems
      from which they had emerged, the modern Buddhist and Christian
      ontologies were egalitarian. Neither their ontologies nor their ideal
      societies were dismembered by caste. Priest and warrior were one.
      Tripartition was dissolved. Buddhism, born of the Buddha's abrupt
      realization, traveled to China and crystallized in Japan to become
      what it originally was, the eminently pragmatic discipline of
      warriors. Buddha had intuited the ontology of the ancient and
      egalitarian self-sacrifice before its dismemberment into caste. Jesus
      had made his life an actual demonstration of the warrior's ontology
      by deliberately confronting the corruption of the tripartite
      sacrificial system in Jerusalem fully aware that the cost would be
      his own life. Agni, the Vedic god who brings the self-sacrifice to
      man, had also sacrificed his own godly self in the Vedic hymns 2,000
      years before."

      I delve further into the ontology of the self-sacrifice in The Book
      of Genesis from a Darwinian Perspective which will be published in
      the fall where I point out the formula as it is depicted in the fall
      of Adam and Eve.

      "Then the pivotal event(s) in human evolution corresponding to Adam
      and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit is the expansion of man's
      behavioral repertoire accompanied by the rapid evolutionary growth of
      the brain culminating in man's knowledge of good and evil. What
      Genesis does not specifically say about either of man's two states of
      consciousness is easily inferred from the Biblical text. According to
      Genesis, in man's original state, before:

      • The rapid expansion of the behavioral repertoire
      • The enlargement of the brain
      • And the emergence of self-consciousness

      He generally knew what to do and had little or no sense of self.
      Without self-consciousness, he could not continuously ponder his own
      mortality and from that we can assume his ability to imagine fear was
      severely limited.
      In man's current state, again according to Genesis, he often doesn't
      know what to do, he does the wrong thing, he is self-conscious and he
      hides from God.
      Those scientific categories of instinct and acquired behavior are
      embedded in this religious language. If you behave instinctively you
      intuit what to do and do not have to make a decision based on what
      you have learned previously. An organism that behaves instinctively
      cannot behave otherwise and does not make conscious mistakes. On the
      other hand, if you rely on acquired behaviors you have learned, you
      must consciously choose from among many possible behavioral
      alternatives in any given situation. You are prone to error and your
      awareness of that fact generates ontological anxiety.
      Given these few lines from the Bible, literally read, it is clear
      that if one wanted to attain the original state of consciousness, the
      one intended by the Biblical text, one would have to abandon one's
      self-consciousness and learn to intuit appropriate behavior. I
      believe I am reading Genesis correctly when I say that one could then
      stand in God's presence without fear. This is consonant with theology
      for despite countless artistic renderings of a celestial Eden, the
      Catholic catechism defines heaven very simply as -- being in the
      presence of God.3
      The hunger for spirituality, then, is the natural desire of an
      evolved self-conscious mind to return to a time (the beginning) and a
      place (paradise) before men made tools and plotted the murder of
      other men, before the dawn of self-consciousness, when behavior was
      intuitive and a "man" could stand in the presence of God without
      fear. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says,
      "When you disrobe without being ashamed… you will not be
      Jesus' words in this Nag Hammadi text from 1st century Egypt dovetail
      remarkably with the nature of the fall in Genesis. The fall brought
      shame and fear (self-consciousness and ontological anxiety).
      Returning to God (by abandoning the "self") would remove them."

      There may not be many stories in the mystery religions about dying
      and bodily resurrection but stories about dying to one's self and
      seeing God face to face are ubiquitous (East and West) as I've
      indicated above.

      rich faussette
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