A DIFFERENT STORY. From the beginning.

 PART V: THE LEGACIES

 

33.     THE NEW GOD

The rod disappeared and the abstract, unknowable YHWH became Yahweh who became Jehovah who became God the Father.

In the last few centuries BC the old knowledge of the real YHWH in the Middle East was preserved amongst the Gnostics, the Zoroastrians and the Manicheans – but their pagan teachings were destined to be overwhelmed by the rising tide of Judaeo-Christianity.  Gnosticism was not so much a religion as a philosophy of the ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ of the light. Gnostic texts recorded an understanding of ‘the unquenchable fire that came out of stones, from which the human race had to be protected – immeasurable light without colour, form, or limit that no eye could look at’. [1] There were Hebrew Gnostics and even early Christian Gnostics, but their pagan beliefs were eventually stamped out by the new Christian Church – finally in the 5th Crusade of the ironically named Pope Innocent against the Langedoc Cathar heretics of southern France.  The Cathars followed the errant teaching of the apostle John that … God is light … he was a burning and shining light … there is none else.  So they were killed in millions.

Add Pope Innocent to the list of major villains.

Zoroastrianism was the early State religion of Persia dating back to around 550 BC, and remains strong in Iran and India. Its supreme god Ahura Mazda or Ohrmazd was the god of wisdom and ‘God of Light’ who renewed the world through purifying fire – a familiar metaphor. Ahura Mazda literally means lord of wisdom (like Egyptian Thoth) and he was also regarded as the ‘uncreated spirit’ (another Egyptian image).

Manichaeism was a variant ‘Religion of Light’ which emerged later in Persia about 250 BC, flowing from the ancient success of the [good] world of light over the [evil] world of darkness – that familiar theme again. One of its central claims was that god was ‘luminous’. Ironically, the intellectual father of the Christian church – St Augustine of Hippo – was a late Christian convert after a licentious youth as a follower of Manichaeism.

Even early Hebrews retained some of the old knowledge. Prominent priest/scholar Philo of Alexandria (ca 20 BC-50 AD) wrote with baffling intellectual dexterity that ‘God’ was himself ‘archetypal light’ pouring forth innumerable rays, but these were only intelligible to the intellect and could not be perceived or comprehended by the outward senses.  Or vice versa?  Philo even knew that ‘god’ emerged from a body of seven ‘somethings’. He wrote an incomprehensible chapter on ‘the nature of the number seven [which] is superior to every form of expression’. Reflecting the particular arrangement of lapis lazuli balls in the coffer (the body of Osiris) Philo wrote, ‘seven increased twofold or threefold (cubed) is the foundation of all incorporeal and corporeal substances’. [2] Indeed!

But in all these early religious constructs, from The Egyptian ‘Followers’ onward, conceptual knowledge of the light gradually became animated into the humanoid deity ‘god’. The abstract unknowable concept of YHWH became Yahweh which became Jehovah which became God the Father … extended to include ‘his’ son, Jesus, and the problematic ‘holy spirit’ which emanated from them both.  The conceptual ‘it’ became the personal ‘He’, and the even more inventive concept of three persons in one God.

The earliest Egyptians understood the nuclear energy of the sun (the father Ra) and its embodiment on Earth (the son Osiris) via the mystery of the ‘word’ (e = mc2), which emitted the invisible ‘spirit’ of radiation. The Gnostics and early Hebrews partially understood that ‘the word’, transliterated as YHWH, was an unfathomable concept of the very essence of existence. Their ‘God’ had no form but was the ineffable essence of light energy.

Now imaginative early Christian fathers synthesised all that into a new humanised version in which a benevolent ‘God the Father’ in the heavens above manifested his own mortal human son on Earth. God became personalised as the mysterious trinity – God in three persons – defined in the Apostles Creed … we believe in One God, maker of heaven and earth … and in his son (Jesus) … Light of Light … and in the ‘Holy Spirit’ which emanates from them. The early Church had enormous intellectual difficulty deciding whether Jesus was mortal or divine, or both; and insoluble difficulty in humanising the ‘Holy Spirit’ – which is now rendered as a cloud or ‘aura’ in traditional iconography.

It would all be amusing if it weren’t so true. Physicists in ancient Egypt understood the nuclear processes of the sun and used that technical knowledge to manifest energy on Earth to save mankind from darkness. Now the Christian Church has had us believe that a person in the sky manifested another person, his son, on Earth to save us from the spirits of darkness. It’s not as though the early Church scholars didn’t know, or couldn’t know. The real knowledge was recorded by the early patriarchs Enoch and Abraham and later Moses himself; while Gnostic literature of the period was full of factual details.

Enoch, father of Methuselah and great-grandfather of Noah, went to the great ‘pointed mountain’ [pyramid] where he saw … seven mountains of magnificent stones … seven stars like great burning mountains … and the light of that fire shone like hyacinth [blue] … as if it were a structure built of crystals, and between those crystals tongues of living fire. Enoch warned of the dangers to come, including raging waves, clouds without water and stars of black darkness that would shrivel the fruit on the trees. But then Enoch himself was ‘no more’- in the quaint Biblical language he was ‘translated’, ‘god took him’ and ‘he was not’. [3] Sublimated into the sunshine!

Abraham also provided an eye-witness account of the light of the creator of ‘heaven and earth’ with a body of [blue] sapphires like [green] peridot … a throne of fire with a cloud of indescribable light from the [crystal] firmament … from spheres or eyes of the mighty host [array] of the theatre of stars.[4]  And when Moses went into the Pharaoh’s mount the ‘angels’ explained to him the wonders of seven great works of ‘heaven and earth’ with angels of fire, angels of ‘wind spirits’ and angels of [crystal] hail. While later, in Israel, Amos (ca 750 BC) preached  … seek him that maketh the seven stars … the Lord [YHWH] is his name. [5]

Elsewhere whole libraries of pre-Christian Gnostic texts (from Egypt) struggled to detail and explain the real ‘god’ as not an animate being but an invisible, immeasurable, ineffable pure ‘light dwelling in light’ with ‘non-being existence’. The Gnostic ‘light’ existed in ‘emerald likenesses’ in a ‘hidden third power’, and as the ‘Triple-Powered One’ with three powers in the manner of ‘three secret quadrangles’ of cubic perfection. [6]

While other, now anonymous scholars of the period, struggled manfully with language to capture the marvels of the Lord YHWH as … a lake of fire [light] whose number is seven – seven seas of light, seven stars of brilliant light, seven monstrances of light, seven clouds of light, seven vines of ‘grapes’, seven stones of [crystal] ice, and seven mountains of light. These known but non-canonical (unacceptable) sources provided vivid descriptions in naïve humanised language of an awesome furnace, filled with the vapour of the Holy Spirit, composed of gems or ‘eyes’ that were in ‘fiery motion’, arranged in a ‘mighty host’ (array) detailed in convoluted schemes of ‘ranks’ of angels in nine classes and three orders (cubic), venerated in combinations seven stars, seven seas, seven monstrances, seven grapes, seven lamps etc – in obvious echoes of a cubic matrix of units of seven. The gems shimmered in ‘fiery motion’ as if they were alive…which became ‘beings of light’ …which became ‘invisible luminaries’ …which became ‘spiritual beings’ …which became the cherubim and seraphim …which became amorphous diaphanous humanised ‘angels’. [7]

Balls of shimmering amorphous incandescence became ‘angels’.

The regular cubic array of glowing lapis lazuli ‘stars’ also explained tortured translations of the Biblical ‘Lord of Hosts’, which in English has no readily explicable meaning. But the Hebrew word tzva’ot (‘hosts’) means a specifically organized array or systematic arrangement – recalling wise Solomon who ordered things by number. Similarly, other opaque Biblical language such as – ‘thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heaven, with all their host, and the earth and all things therein, and the seas [waves] and all that is therein’ – could all be rendered simply as ‘you have made the array of heaven and earth and the waves [of radiation]. [8]

Of course, all that was Old Testament pre-Christian stuff but at least some of it passed into the New Testament of the emergent Christian Church – in the Revelations of St John. The God of Revelations said … write the things which thou hast seen … the mystery of the seven stars … like a sea of glass mingled with fire; the beast with seven heads … the seven angels with the seven vials of the seven plagues of the wrath of God.  Naturally many Christian apologists would still prefer that these ‘Revelations’ were not included in the authorised Bible. Christian Church scholars knew of all these inconvenient truths, but they preferred not to. Some texts were knowingly mistranslated and others destroyed or suppressed.

Throughout the Old Testament the misnomer ‘God’ was frequently rendered in Hebrew as El Shaddai … meaning powerful destroyer (out) of the mounts. That’s a characterisation that resonates well with the ancient Psalms which sang of the glorious light which came forth out of Mount Zion to smite enemies … his foundation is [was] in the holy mountains … out of Mount Zion the light appeared and went forth as an all-consuming fire … the light was awesome and terrible out of its holy places. Tellingly the Psalms, some of earliest and most direct of the Old Testament texts, contained very literal descriptions of the ‘almighty light’. They gave praise to the lord of lords who made heaven and earth … to make the great lights … to bringeth winds out of the treasuries … to cause the vapours to ascend … to maketh rain … whose substance was made in secret, curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth … whose members were written in a book. But the Psalms lamented, even then, that the lords’ works were too marvellous … our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt … such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain it. [9]  How ironic that the ancient scribes in 900-1000 BC already had such a clear grasp of what they did not understand … but we went on to shroud it further in religion.

Other important works were buried. The book of Enoch was declared non-canonical (unacceptable) and suppressed in the western Church – even though it had been so important that three copies were found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. Other inconvenient texts like the obviously relevant Book of the Mysteries of Heaven & Earth and The Book of the Cave of Treasures were simply ignored; while anything Gnostic was declared heretical and sinful. Punishable by death.

Early inconvenient sources were ignored or suppressed but still the underlying truths sneaked into the New Testament directly from the apostles of Christ: ‘This is the message we have heard of him … that god is light … and the Jews and Greeks became fools and changed the glory of god into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked upon … this then is the message we declare unto you, that God is light. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables … but were eyewitnesses of the majesty … this we heard when we were in the holy mount.’ [10]

The early Church fathers knew from their own apostles that ‘god’ was merely light and it was only fools who made the glory into their own image, but they went on anyway to construct a new world of humanised iconography celebrated in the magnificent churches of Christian Europe.

[1] Nag Hammadi Library – Paraphrase of Shem

[2] The Works of Philo, (Yonge trans)

[3] Book of Enoch; Jude, 12-14; Hebrews, 11; Genesis, 5

[4] The Apocalypse of Abraham

[5] The Book of Jubilees; Amos

[6] Nag Hammadi Library, The Apocryphon of John; Allogenes; Trimorphic Protennoia; Marsanes

[7] Book of Heaven & Earth; The Book of the Cave of Treasures

[8] Nememiah, 9

[9] Psalms 106,  134-136, 139

[10] I John, 1,5,12; Paul to the Romans, 1; II Peter, 1

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