|Tom Harpur's The Pagan Christ: A Critique|
Note: Tom Harpur will not reply to this article. On his website he engages in irrelevant diversions and points readers to Robert Price. He fails to note that I have already responded to Price's critique of my Impossible Faith article (though I took it offline June 2009 in preparation for a publishing project). Harpur is obviously incapable of defending his work and so has no choice but to resort to diversions. Let that speak for itself.
Our friends in Canada had now and then asked me about a journalist up their way named Tom Harpur, who writes New Agish columns for the Toronto Star. Harpur's work doesn't get down here to the States easily; in fact his book of interest here, The Pagan Christ [Thomas Allen, 2004]
Harpur's book is merely a reiteration of "pagan copycat" theories, and serves as an example of material you'll be able to avoid once you use the ideas I offer on using sources critically.
The bibliography contains many unreliable sources: Freke and Gandy, Acharya S, Tim Leedom, T. W. Doane, Earl Doherty, Helen Ellerbe, Kersey Graves, John Shelby Spong, Godfrey Higgins, Gerald Massey, Alvin Boyd Kuhn. These last three (in reverse order) are Harpur's most favored sources; throughout Harpur expresses bewilderment that these three "scholars" (the word he applies liberally to just about anyone, regardless of credentials), especially Kuhn, have been so vastly ignored.
The idea that they have been ignored because they are not competent scholars does not occur to Harpur.
Some critical work backing this up was done for us by W. Ward Gasque, a Canadian Biblical scholar, who reports that he emailed 20 Egyptologists to get their view of these last three writers. Of the 10 who responded to Gasque, only one had ever heard of any of them. I think it worth reporting much of what Gasque reports, in full:
Harpur refers to Kuhn, Massey and Higgins as 'Egyptologists'; but he does not quote any contemporary Egyptologist or recognized academic authority on world religions, nor does he appeal to any of the standard reference books, such as the magisterial three volume Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (2001) or any primary sources.
He is especially dependent on Kuhn, whom he describes as "one of the single greatest geniuses of the 20th century" -- [one who] "towers above all others of recent memory in intellect and his understanding of the world's religions." Further, "Kuhn has more to offer the Church than all the scholars of the Jesus Seminar together. More than John Spong, C. S. Lewis, Joseph Campbell or Matthew Fox." Harpur declares himself "stunned at the silence with which [Kuhn's] writings have been greeted by scholars."
As it turns out, Kuhn was a high school language teacher who earned a PhD from Columbia University by writing a dissertation on Theosophy; his only other link with an institution of higher learning was a short stint as secretary to the president of a small college. Though he was a prodigious author, most of his works were self-published.
I emailed 20 leading international Egyptologists, regarding the contributions made to the field by Kuhn, Higgins and Massey. I also asked their opinion of the following claims by Kuhn (and hence Harpur):
* That the name of Jesus was derived from the Egyptian Iusa, which means "the coming divine Son who heals or saves."
* That the god Horus is "an Egyptian Christos, or Christ . . . He and his mother, Isis, were the forerunners of the Christian Madonna and Child, and together they constituted a leading image in Egyptian religion for millennia prior to the Gospels."
* That Horus also "had a virgin birth, and that in one of his roles, he was 'a fisher of men with 12 followers.'"
* That "the letters KRST appear on Egyptian mummy coffins many centuries BCE, and . . . this word, when the vowels are filled in . . . is really Karast or Krist, signifying Christ."
* That the doctrine of the incarnation "is in fact the oldest, most universal mythos known to religion. It was current in the Osirian religion in Egypt at least 4,000 years BCE."
Only one of the 10 experts who responded to my questions had ever heard of Kuhn, Higgins or Massey! Professor Kenneth A. Kitchen of the University of Liverpool pointed out that not one of these men is mentioned in M.L. Bierbrier's Who Was Who in Egyptology (3rd ed, 1995); nor are any of their works listed in Ida B. Pratt's very extensive bibliography on Ancient Egypt (1925/1942).
Since he died in 1834, Kitchen noted, "nothing by Higgins could be of any value whatsoever, because decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs was still being finalized, very few texts were translated, and certainly not the vast mass of first-hand religious data."
Another scholar responded: "Egyptology has the unenviable distinction of being one of those disciplines that almost anyone can lay claim to, and the unfortunate distinction of being probably the one most beleaguered by false prophets." He dismissed Kuhn's work as "fringe nonsense."
These scholars were unanimous in dismissing the suggested etymologies for 'Jesus' and 'Christ.'
Peter F. Dorman of the University of Chicago commented: "It is often tempting to suggest simplistic etymologies between Egyptian and Greek (or other languages), but similar sequences of consonants and/or vowels are insufficient to demonstrate any convincing connection."
Ron Leprohan, of the University of Toronto, pointed out that while sa means 'son' in ancient Egyptian and iu means 'to come,' Kuhn and Harpur have the syntax all wrong. In any event, the name Iusa simply does not exist in Egyptian. The name 'Jesus' is Greek, derived from a universally recognized Semitic name (Jeshu'a) borne by many people in the first century.
While all the scholars agreed that the image of the baby Horus and Isis has influenced the Christian iconography of Madonna and Child, this is where the similarity stops. The image of Mary and Jesus is not one of the earliest Christian images -- and, at any rate, there is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born. Further, the New Testament Mary was certainly not a goddess, like Isis.
There is no evidence for the idea that Horus was 'a fisher of men' -- or that his followers, the king's officials, were ever 12 in number.
KRST is the word for 'burial' ('coffin' is written 'KRSW'); but there is no evidence whatsoever to link this with the Greek title 'Christos,' or Hebrew 'Mashiah.'
There is no mention of Osiris in Egyptian texts until about 2350 BCE, so Harpur's reference to the origins of Osirian religion is off by more than a millennium and a half. Elsewhere, Harpur refers to "Jesus in Egyptian lore as early as 18,000 BCE"; and he quotes Kuhn as claiming that "the Jesus who stands as the founder of Christianity was at least 10,000 years of age." In fact, the earliest extant writing that we have dates from about 3200 BCE.)
Kuhn's redefinition of 'incarnation' and his attempt to root this in Egyptian religion is regarded as bogus by the Egyptologists I consulted. According to one: "Only the pharaoh was believed to have a divine aspect, the divine power of kingship, incarnated in the human being currently serving as the king. No other Egyptians ever believed they possessed even 'a little bit of the divine'."
Virtually none of the alleged evidence in The Pagan Christ is documented by reference to original sources. The notes -- which refer mainly to Kuhn, Higgins, Massey or various long-out-of-date works -- abound with errors and omissions. Many quotations are taken out of context and clearly misinterpreted.
The book is chock full of questionable claims, such as: that "Christianity began as a cult with almost wholly Pagan origins and motivations in the first century"; that nearly all of the most creative leaders of the earliest church were pronounced heretics and reviled by "those who had swept in and grabbed control of [church] policies"; that "apart from the four Gospels . . . and the Epistles, there is no hard, historical evidence for Jesus' existence coming out of the first century at all."
Harpur claims that "the greatest cover-up of all time" was perpetrated at the beginning of the fourth century; and that thousands of Christian scholars have a vested interest in maintaining the myth that there was an actual Jesus who lived in history.
Presumably, the Jewish, Unitarian, secular and very liberal Christians who happen to be recognized scholars have no axes to grind regarding whether or not Jesus actually lived, or whether most of the ideas found in the Bible stem from Egyptian or other Near Eastern religions. It would be unlikely that you could find more than a handful who believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not live and walk the dusty roads of Palestine.
Harpur's book is based on the work of self-appointed 'scholars' who seek to excavate literary and archaeological resources of the ancient world the way a crossword puzzle enthusiast mines dictionaries and lists of words -- rather than by primary scholarship.
While this was an extensive quote to use, it corresponds with what will be shown further: Harpur, though once a minor Biblical scholar himself, has clearly abandoned rational discourse and serious scholarship. Even the few real scholars he uses (Crossan, Borg, Funk, Pagels, etc) are used sparingly, would powerfully disagree with his sources like Massey and Kuhn, and themselves are considered to variable extents "fringe" by the mainstream.
There is not a hint of any knowledge of specific evangelical scholarly responses (just vague references to angry "conservative" respondents). In this book and in his columns, Harpur merely uncritically follows preferred sources and acts as though contrary material either does not exist, or is just sponsored by fundamentalists.
We will also be responding to his common retort that his critics simply need to read the works of his sources and appreciate them, by indeed looking at these sources. Here is what we have:
Naturally, as with all such critics, Harpur is challenged to provide actual answers to these points made. We very much doubt we will see any.
And now, we offer a page by page analysis of The Pagan Christ.
That the first myth I wish to dispose of even needs to be refuted will surprise the vast majority of readers but several anti-Christians seem to be labouring under the impression that Christianity actually caused or prolonged the Dark Ages. Most of us know that the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west had nothing to do with religion. Instead, it was the result of the hordes of barbarian invaders and the Empire's inability to cope with them after centuries of stagnation. The last of the invaders were the Vikings who subsided in the eleventh century although their descendants, the Normans, kept the tradition up for a while longer. Gradually the barbarians converted to Christianity but it was many generations before they lost much of their pagan culture and way of life. We should also note that the Dark Ages were not actually that gloomy at all and historians now prefer to use the less judgemental phrase of 'early Middle Ages'. The period was one of dynamic technical advance, with inventions like the horse collar and stirup; great art, like the Sutton Hoe treasure; and great literature too, such as Beowulf and the work of Bede himself.
There was a Renaissance of sorts around 800 AD under Charlemagne and by the eleventh century a recognisable Western European culture was firmly established. Christians had always looked back to the Roman Empire as a lost ideal while pagan authors like Cicero and Virgil were popular. Christianity had grown up in a pagan culture and was usually quite comfortable with its literary achievements. There was no attempt to suppress classical works by the church and the losses of the dark ages were caused simply by the fact that only a tiny number of people were now literate and hence valued the decaying manuscripts. It was the church that kept the candle of learning alive and the preservative all Latin literature that has come down to us is a direct result of the efforts of Christian scribes who laboured to copy out old manuscripts. True, they were more concerned to preserve what was important to them and that meant Christian writing - but to accuse them of not being interested in exactly what we are interested in is small minded and churlish when we owe them so much.
The claim made apparently derives directly from Massey, who provided not a shred of documentation for this claim. If Harpur wishes to have any semblance of credibility, here or elsewhere, let him cite the exact work that this "Iusa" figure appears in.
An explanation is found from a point here by a collector of such coins, that a mint is abbreviated with the first two letters of the city name.
The Catholic Encyclopedia reports here that the Greek letters XP combined in a monogram occur on pre-Christian coins (e. g. the Attic tetradrachma and some coins of the Ptolemies), and in some Greek manuscripts of the Christian period they are employed as an abbreviation of certain words.
In other words, Harpur misses the very essential point that a monogram, made up of one or two letters, can have far more than one meaning. Thus the chi-rho monogram on the coin would refer not to Christ, but to an ancient mint in a city that began with the letters Chr- or else the name of the person who made the coin. Without this realization, what Harpur offers is like arguing that the American Dental Association is the same thing as the Americans with Disabilities Act, because both are referred to by the monogram ADA.
Hurtado, in Earliest Christian Artifacts, 137, offers several examples of Greek words that were abbreviated with the chi rho combination, inclduing as an abbreviation for a word that indicated a passage was useful for excerpting.
No source is given for this alleged quote from Origen; such a line is attributed to Origen in Contra Celsus by Kuhn in Who is this King of Glory? An online copy of that work here, reveals no such quote.
It is also said that when the church "turned to literalism and an exoteric, bottom-line rendering of the faith," Origen's works were banned. This ignores the plain historical fact that literalism was a fundamental method of reading before Origen, and by Origen himself. As reported here, Origen did make recourse to an allegorical method more than others did, but he did so only when "it would entail anything impossible, absurd, or unworthy of God" -- he did not interpret the entirety of the scriptures allegorically as Harpur would wish to imply.
As the article also makes clear, whether indeed Origen's works were banned is far from clear, and it was not due to "literalism vs. allegorism."
Finally, Harpur charges that the church forgot or ignored "the fact that St. Paul himself used the esoteric, allegorical approach: but carefully hides in a footnote the single reference to Paul allegedly doing this in Gal. 4:24-5 -- hardly enough to establish a normal methodology, even if true; however, the Jews did not reject allegory as a means of interpretation, and what Paul does here is not what Harpur does in his "allegorizing" (e.g., making the story of the prodigal son some metaphor for primordial matter), but a case of historical appeal to type and antitype from what he regards as real history (see description here).
Moreover, Eusebius in tracing beliefs back to "the beginning of the world" clearly works within the paradigm of the OT as a historical record and thus again has nothing to do with paganism. Beyond this Harpur's quote of Eusebius appears to be a badly reported version of what we find here in Chapter IV. It is clear that Harpur's quote comes from Kuhn, who in turn got it from Lardner. Conspicuously missing from the original work is the "implanted in man's minds" phrase that Harpur finds so appealing that he italicizes it and calls it "crucial" to his thesis.
It is also said that Philo in the reign of Claudius became acquainted at Rome with Peter, who was then preaching there. Nor is this indeed improbable, for the work of which we have spoken, and which was composed by him some years later, clearly contains those rules of the Church which are even to this day observed among us. And since he describes as accurately as possible the life of our ascetics, it is clear that he not only knew, but that he also approved, while he venerated and extolled, the apostolic men of his time, who were as it seems of the Hebrew race, and hence observed, after the manner of the Jews, the most of the customs of the ancients. In the work to which he gave the title, On a Contemplative Life or on Suppliants, after affirming in the first place that he will add to those things which he is about to relate nothing contrary to truth or of his own invention, he says that these men were called Therapeut' and the women that were with them Therapeutrides.
Note carefully how Harpur (or his source) has misused Eusebius. Eusebius is taking Philo's account of a Jewish group, described by Philo himself, and decides that Philo has in error incorrectly designated and inadequately described a Christian group. This is just as clear as Eusebius goes on:
He then adds the reasons for such a name, explaining it from the fact that they applied remedies and healed the souls of those who came to them, by relieving them like physicians, of evil passions, or from the fact that they served and worshiped the Deity in purity and sincerity. Whether Philo himself gave them this name, employing an epithet well suited to their mode of life, or whether the first of them really called themselves so in the beginning, since the name of Christians was not yet everywhere known, we need not discuss here. He bears witness, however, that first of all they renounce their property. When they begin the philosophical mode of life, he says, they give up their goods to their relatives, and then, renouncing all the cares of life, they go forth beyond the walls and dwell in lonely fields and gardens, knowing well that intercourse with people of a different character is unprofitable and harmful. They did this at that time, as seems probable, under the influence of a spirited and ardent faith, practicing in emulation the prophets' mode of life. For in the Acts of the Apostles, a work universally acknowledged as authentic, it is recorded that all the companions of the apostles sold their possessions and their property and distributed to all according to the necessity of each one, so that no one among them was in want. "For as many as were possessors of lands or houses," as the account says, "sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet, so that distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."
Notice that Eusebius does not say precisely that these were "Christians" as Harpur's alleged quote implies -- he assumes that they were, and assumes that they are NOT Essenes at all. It is in this light -- believing that Philo has made a mistaken identification -- that Eusebius goes on to write:
And after some other matters he says: "The whole interval, from morning to evening, is for them a time of exercise. For they read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures. They have also writings of ancient men, who were the founders of their sect, and who left many monuments of the allegorical method. These they use as models, and imitate their principles." These things seem to have been stated by a man who had heard them expounding their sacred writings. But it is highly probable that the works of the ancients, which he says they had, were the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, and probably some expositions of the ancient prophets, such as are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many others of Paul's Epistles.
We can already see that Harpur has conflated two entirely different parts of what Eusebius says; but worse than that, he adds definitiveness to Eusebius' statement that simply does not exist in the original -- and neglects to mention the whole premise for Eusebius upon which his statement is made, namely, a mistaken identification by Philo.
In fact, Eusebius closes with a specific denial that these Theraputae predated Christianity: "....that Philo, when he wrote these things, had in view the first heralds of the Gospel and the customs handed down from the beginning by the apostles, is clear to every one."
For I myself, when I discovered the wicked disguise which the evil spirits had thrown around the divine doctrines of the Christians, to turn aside others from joining them, laughed both at those who framed these falsehoods, and at the disguise itself, and at popular opinion; and I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word, seeing what was related to it. But they who contradict themselves on the more important points appear not to have possessed the heavenly wisdom, and the knowledge which cannot be spoken against. Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians. For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them. For the seed and imitation imparted according to capacity is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him.
From this context, it is clear that Justin is not, as Harpur says, making rationalizations as to why "Christianity in no way differentiated from Paganism." He is rather saying that it is indeed different in many ways, but that certain men in the past (note that he uses Plato as an example -- not exactly a typical Pagan) had some of the same ideas, which by rights are the intellectual property of Christianity. Paganism is not even in view here, much less any idea about archaetypal symbolism.
And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; AEsculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Caesar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.
What is at work here again is yet again not a matter of admitting similarities to Paganism -- much less any sort of derivation -- but the issue of "newness" and defending Christianity from that charge (as noted above). Please note, as a reader of ours once said of this passage, that Justin Martyr is making these stretches to try to justify Christian belief by making it sound similar to what pagans (who ridicule it) believe in the first place. Strangely enough, it is the pagans themselves who don't appear to be recognising these similarities.
This refutes any contention by Harpur of recognizable similarities and derivation. If the pagans didn't recognize it, and Justin had to perform these stretches of analogy to create parallels, how likely is it that they are genuine?
The closest match to this is The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico 1517-1521 by Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, one of Cortez' associates. It comes in two "books", not volumes, and page 60 is in book two in the edition offered on Amazon. It's not locally available, but this happens to be one of those books Amazon lets one search in, and I found nothing of this quote. I will consider it another Pope Leo hoax until someone provides better documentation. The same will be said for the claim of Pizarro making similar finds among the Mayans on p. 30.
Also doubtful is Harpur's claim that Ammonius Saccas, a Neoplatonist (175-240 AD) "stoutly maintained that Christianity and Paganism different on no essential points." We have none of his written works left to us and all that we know of what he believed comes from later sources. See more here.
(A Canadian reader bought a copy of Pagan Christ recently and noted that the error about Celsus had been corrected; he is now properly called a "pagan" philosopher.)
Accounts of Huc's travels are related in a book there's no way we'll ever get our hands on (printed in the UK in 1872) but a Theosophist site here reports, The Abbe Huc, in his celebrated Travels in Tartary, Tibet, and China, describes how he found among the Tibetan priests not only many characteristic doctrines of the Roman Church but even many of their rituals, vestures, and sacred implements. His explanation is that the Devil thus anticipated Christianity in order to deceive mankind; to which he adds a theory that early Christian missionaries may have penetrated to Tibet.
It so happens that this latter point is indeed the truth, as related in Palmer's book, The Jesus Sutras. Harpur's use of these for his theories is either dishonest or else badly misinformed by non-credentialed sources.
Various Buddhist websites vary in the expression of these and the other commands, but not one matches what Massey offered, and I have yet to find one that parallels the comments of Jesus in terms of not looking upon any woman. Sites claiming to reflect the original text of the command relate it as, Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: I observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct. Claims of parallels to other parables are not even verified by Harpur with as much as a quote.
17. Tat. Thou hast driven me, O Father, into no small fury and distraction of mind, for I do not now see my self. 18. Hermes. I would, O Son, that thou also wert gone out of thyself, like them that dream in their sleep. 19. Tat. Then tell me this, who is the Author and Maker of Regeneration ? 20. Hermes. The child of God, one Man by the Will of God. 21. Tat. Now, O Father, thou hast put me to silence for ever and all my former thoughts have quite left and forsaken me, for I see the greatness, and shape of all things here below, and nothing but falsehood in them all. 22. And since this mortal Form is daily changed, and turned by this time into increase, and diminution, as being falsehood; what therefore is true, O Trismegistus? 23. Trismegistus. That, O Son, which is not troubled, nor bounded; not coloured, not figured, not changed; that which is naked, bright, comprehensible only of itself, unalterable, unbodily. 24. Tat. Now I am mad, indeed, Father; for when I thought me to have been made a wise man by thee, with these thoughts thou hast quite dulled all my senses. 25. Hermes. Yet is it so, as I say, O Son, He that Looketh Only upon that which is carried upward as Fire, that which is carried downward as Earth, that which is moist as Water, and that which bloweth or is subject to blast as Air; how can he sensibly understand that which is neither hard, nor moist, nor tangible, nor perspicuous, seeing it is only understood in power and operation; but I beseech and pray to the Mind which alone can understand the Generation, which is in God.
Furthermore, every source that offers a date for this and related texts puts its composition in the first centuries of the Christian era! See here, an academic site with an item by a credentialed scholar:
In 1460 a bookfinder brought the Medicis a manuscript from a Macedonian monastery known as the Corpus Hermeticum, written, they believed, by Hermes Trismegistus. We now understand the book to date from the 3rd to 6th Century AD and to incorporate an amalgam of Christian, Neo-Platonic Greek and Jewish ideas, but at the time, Renaissance scholars associated the Greek God Hermes (Roman: Mercury) with the Egyptian God Thoth, bringer of hieroglyphs and human language to the most ancient people known.
This is also confirmed by the most learned of Greeks such as Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and as some say, even Lycurgus going to Egypt and conversing with the priests; of whom they say Euxodus was a hearer of Chonuphis of Memphis, Solon of Sonchis of Sais, and Pythagoras of Oenuphis of Heliopolis. Wherefore the last named, being, as is probable, more than ordinarily admired by the men, and they also be him imitated their symbolic and mysterious way of talking; obscuring his sentiments with dark riddles. For the greatest part of Pythagoric precepts fall nothing short of those sacred writings they call hieroglyphical..." (Plutarch, _Morals_, 10)
The problem with this is that Plutarch's Morals only comes in 5 volumes, so there is no "10" to refer to. It turns out the actual text is from Plutarch's Isis and Osiris and reads in full (see here):
Witness to this also are the wisest of the Greeks: Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, who came to Egypt and consorted with the priests; and in this number some would include Lycurgus also. Eudoxus, they say, received instruction from Chonuphis of Memphis, Solon from Sonchis of Saïs, and Pythagoras from Oenuphis of Heliopolis. Pythagoras, it seems, was greatly admired, and he also greatly admired the Egyptian priests, and, copying their symbolism and occult teachings, incorporated his doctrines in enigmas. As a matter of fact most of the Pythagorean precepts do not at all fall short of the writings that are called hieroglyphs; such, for example, as these: "Do not eat upon a stool"; "Do not sit upon a peck measure"; "Do not lop off the shoots of a palm-tree"; "Do not poke a fire with a sword within the house."
In other words, it's far from clear that "ancient wisdom" was the subject of these sessions, when things like "do not eat upon a stool" seem to have been of more relevance. The content of this teaching isn't specific enough for Harpur to make any real use of; much less can it be said that "incarnation" was learned from here. (See above from Gasque as well.)
As Higgins admits, this prophecy comes from an Arabic writer named Abulpharagius -- allegedly reporting the words of Zoroaster. But Abulpharagius wrote (as Higgins fails to mention) in the 11th century AD, claiming to find this prophecy in earlier writings. If Harpur wants to accept THIS as genuine, then one wonders how he would have the ability to reject the Gospels, written even by his account a mere 50-100 years after Jesus, while accepting what Abulpharagius says some 1600 years after the alleged fact.
Moreover, Faber went on to suggest more Higgins and Graves and Harpur would reject: That Zoroaster got his prophecy from reading the prophecy of Balaam and Isaiah.
As an aside, Harpur incorrectly called Zoroaster as a "Persian divinity" when in fact he was a prophet -- not a deity.
About Heracles I heard the account given that he was of the number of the twelve gods; but of the other Heracles whom the Hellenes know I was not able to hear in any part of Egypt: and moreover to prove that the Egyptians did not take the name of Heracles from the Hellenes, but rather the Hellenes from the Egyptians,--that is to say those of the Hellenes who gave the name Heracles to the son of Amphitryon,--of that, I say, besides many other evidences there is chiefly this, namely that the parents of this Heracles, Amphitryon and Alcmene, were both of Egypt by descent, and also that the Egyptians say that they do not know the names either of Poseidon or of the Dioscuroi, nor have these been accepted by them as gods among the other gods; whereas if they had received from the Hellenes the name of any divinity, they would naturally have preserved the memory of these most of all, assuming that in those times as now some of the Hellenes were wont to make voyages[46a] and were sea-faring folk, as I suppose and as my judgment compels me to think; so that the Egyptians would have learnt the names of these gods even more than that of Heracles. In fact however Heracles is a very ancient Egyptian god; and (as they say themselves) it is seventeen thousand years to the beginning of the reign of Amasis from the time when the twelve gods, of whom they count that Heracles is one, were begotten of the eight gods.
So where's this "Iu-em-hotep" guy? He is not mentioned here at all; this is about Hercules.
"The trial for Meister Eckhart illustrates fully the complexity of the factors that could bear upon prosecution. This trial was begun on the initiative of the archbishop of Cologne who entrusted the investigation to a commission on which the Franciscan order was represented, but not Eckhart's own Dominican order. Two key witnesses against Eckhart were fellow Dominicans. On the whole, though, his colleagues within the order supported him and testified to his innocence of heresy; indeed, an earlier inquiry within the order had already ascertained that his teaching was orthodox." Kiekhefer goes on to discuss how Eckhart appealed the case to the pope in 1327, with forwarded documents as well.
Thus, Harpur's claim that he died before the trial is simply wrong. Eckhart recanted of various written and oral teachings that could be construed as heretical before his death, the papal document only condemns some of his work not his person, and lastly admits he was a faithful servant of the church. My source then goes on to discuss various explanations of how the trial got started and finally: "The abundance of records in Eckhart's case allows us to perceive something of the complexity of pertinant influences. Thus, this case serves as a warning never to oversimplify in those instances where the extant documents furnish fewer insights." (source, Richard Kieckhefer, Repression of Heresy in Medieval Germany pp38-40)
I find as well no verification of the idea that he regardeded the Christ as the "collective soul of humanity".
This approach to baptism would have fit Constantine’s case since he undoubtedly understood that many of his actions were considered grave sins by the Church: "It was common at this time (and continued so until about A.D. 400) to postpone baptism to the end of one’s life, especially if one’s duty as an official included torture and execution of criminals. Part of the reason for postponement lay in the seriousness with which the responsibilities were taken" (Chadwick, The Early Church, 127).
Harpur presses the quote into service of an argument that sun worship by Christians was somehow proof of the faith's pagan derivations. Read what else the CE has to say:
Whoever wished to avoid making a violent break with the past and his surroundings sought out some Oriental form of worship which did not demand from him too severe a sacrifice; in such cases Christianity naturally came last. Probably many of the more noble-minded recognized the truth contained in Judaism and Christianity, but believed that they could appropriate it without being obliged on that account to renounce the beauty of other worships. Such a man was the Emperor Alexander Severus; another thus minded was Aurelian, whose opinions were confirmed by Christians like Paul of Samosata. Not only Gnostics and other heretics, but Christians who considered themselves faithful, held in a measure to the worship of the sun. Leo the Great in his day says that it was the custom of many Christians to stand on the steps of the church of St. Peter and pay homage to the sun by obeisance and prayers (cf. Euseb. Alexand. in Mai, "Nov. Patr. Bibl.", 11, 523; Augustine, "Enarratio in Ps. x"; Leo I, Serm. xxvi). When such conditions prevailed it is easy to understand that many of the emperors yielded to the delusion that they could unite all their subjects in the adoration of the one sun-god who combined in himself the Father-God of the Christians and the much-worshipped Mithras; thus the empire could be founded anew on unity of religion.
In other words, the CE makes clear that this was against the hard reality of the very sort of ecumenicism today promulgated by Harpur.
I have found more relevant data in, of all places, Olson and Miesel's book on The Da Vinci Code (The Da Vinci Hoax)  which notes that it is argued by some scholars that the gulf between the monotheism of Christianity and that of the sun cults was not as wide as we may think. The sun cult was monotheistic and was in harmony with a pagan movement of the day to worship the Summus Deus -- the God who is supreme. In this light the syncretism Harpur cites is a far more natural confusion of understanding as opposed to evidence of mixing of unlike religions.
The further syncretism he notes -- showing Jesus put in place of Dionysus in a specific scene -- is explained contextually by the atmosphere of the day. Christianity in the third and fourth centuries, in an effort to prove that their faith was the superior one, embarked on an advertising campaign reminiscent of our soft drink wars.
To use examples I have similar to this one used by Harpur: Mithra was depicted slaying the bull while riding its back; the church did a lookalike scene with Samson killing a lion. Mithra sent arrows into a rock to bring forth water; the church changed that into Moses getting water from the rock at Horeb.
One can't really claim ideological borrowing in this case, for this happened in an age when art usually was imitative -- and it was a sort of one-upsmanship designed as a competition, and the church was not the only one doing it. Furthermore, it didn't involve an exchange or theft of ideology.
IN some pictures of the venerable icons, a lamb is painted to which the Precursor points his finger, which is received as a type of grace, indicating beforehand through the Law, our true Lamb, Christ our God. Embracing therefore the ancient types and shadows as symbols of the truth, and patterns given to the Church, we prefer "grace and truth," receiving it as the fulfilment of the Law. In order therefore that "that which is perfect" may be delineated to the eyes of all, at least in coloured expression, we decree that the figure in human form of the Lamb who taketh away the sin of the world, Christ our God, be henceforth exhibited in images, instead of the ancient lamb, so that all may understand by means of it the depths of the humiliation of the Word of God, and that we may recall to our memory his conversation in the flesh, his passion and salutary death, and his redemption which was wrought for the whole world.
Harpur's idea that the "bare cross" better represents the original faith is in a way true (because of the resurrection) but in terms of what the Trullan Council was trying to express, false. The bare cross would not better represent the concept of sacrificial atonement that the Lamb symbol was illustrating.
The only source ever given for this quote anywhere online is Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled; that work, online here, also gives no source.
Pearse discusses the matter here. Note that Eusebius derived this from Plato -- if Harpur wants to blame the church, even if his understanding were right, he still has the wrong subject.
But, my admirable and excellent Sir, this is the very reason why I took the precaution of saying that it was a good thing to employ this kind of deceit, not only in war, and in dealing with enemies, but also in peace, and in dealing with our dearest friends. For as a proof that it is beneficial not only to the deceivers, but also to those who are deceived; if you go to any of the physicians and ask them how they relieve their patients from disease, they will tell you that they do not depend upon their professional skill alone, but sometimes conduct the sick to health by availing themselves of deceit, and blending the assistance which they derive from it with their art. For when the waywardness of the patient and the obstinacy of the complaint baffle the counsels of the physicians, it is then necessary to put on the mask of deceit in order that, as on the stage, they may be able to hide what really takes place. ... Do you see the advantage of deceit? And if any one were to reckon up all the tricks of physicians the list would run on to an indefinite length. And not only those who heal the body but those also who attend to the diseases of the soul may be found continually making use of this remedy. Thus the blessed Paul attracted those multitudes of Jews:15 with this purpose he circumcised Timothy,16 although he warned the Galatians in his letter17 that Christ would not profit those who were circumcised. For this cause he submitted to the law, although he reckoned the righteousness which came from the law but loss after receiving the faith in Christ.18 For great is the value of deceit, provided it be not introduced with a mischievous intention. In fact action of this kind ought not to be called deceit, but rather a kind of good management, cleverness and skill, capable of finding out ways where resources fail, and making up for the defects of the mind. For I would not call Phinees a murderer, although he slew two human beings with one stroke:19 nor yet Elias after the slaughter of the 100 soldiers, and the captain,20 and the torrents of blood which he caused to be shed by the destruction of those who sacrificed to devils.21 For if we were to concede this, and to examine the bare deeds in themselves apart from the intention of the doers, one might if he pleased judge Abraham guilty of child-murder22 and accuse his grandson23 and descendant24 of wickedness and guile. For the one got possession of the birthright, and the other transferred the wealth of the Egyptians to the host of the Israelites. But this is not the case: away with the audacious thought! For we not only acquit them of blame, but also admire them because of these things, since even God commended them for the same. For that man would fairly deserve to be called a deceiver who made an unrighteous use of the practice, not one who did so with a salutary purpose. And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived.
In other words, what we have here is a case of the honorable lie intended to prevent harm.
How Harpur misses the question of how someone illterate wrote anything is hard to fathom. Other sites say that Victor Tununensis, a sixth century African Bishop related in his Chronicle (566 AD) that when Messala was consul at Costantinople (506 AD), he "censored and corrected" the Gentile Gospels written by persons considered illiterate by the Emperor Anastasius. The source here is perhaps found in this translation, which says, "Anastasius ruled for twenty-seven years. Appropriating the error of the Acephali, he condemned to exile the bishops who were defenders of the Synod of Chalcedon and also found fault with, and corrected, the gospels as if they had been composed by idiot evangelists."
Harpur leaves the impression that Anastasius' changes were somehow universal; in fact they seem to have been the private project of one person, and we at any rate have Gospel mansucripts well before the date of Anastasius, who was Emperor in the East (so much for controlling Western copies) and was also a heretic (a Monophysite). The version used by Harpur appears to have its source in Taylor's Diegesis, which quotes it as, "The Illustrious Messala, by the command of the Emperor Anastasius, the Holy Gospels, as having been written by idiot evangelists, are hereby censured and corrected."
On the same page are some other questionable claims. It is said that a "Christian mob destroyed the Gaulish city of Bibracte in 389," but I can find nothing that backs this up. A general interest article now offline says that "...Augustus removed the inhabitants to his new town Augustodfinum (Autun), to destroy the free native traditions." Harpur also says "Alesia was destroyed before that" but from the looks of this, Julius Caesar was the one who stomped on these two towns, not a "Christian mob" some 400 years later. I also find no verification that Arles was "sacked by Christians in 270" but have seen that it was sacked by Visigoths in 476.
The Emperor Justinian is notorious for his closing the academy of Athens in 529AD and causing the pagan teachers to flee to Persia, although they all came back a few years later and were allowed to write and study unmolested....In 529AD, Justinian orders the philosophy school in Athens closed because it is self supporting and the teachers are lecturing anti-Christian stuff. State funded schools in Alex and elsewhere stay open even if the teachers are pagans. Then in 531AD, seven pagan philosophers leave Athens for Persia to seek friendly climes but they don't find them and come back within a year with a safe conduct from Justinian. By 540AD, according to a pagan Alexandrian source, the Athenian school is still going even if on a diminished basis. As late as 565AD, Olympiodorus, an open pagan, still has his job, paid by the state, as a lecturer in Alexandria but the intellectual centres are moving to Constantinople to be nearer money and power. We should also note that the school of Athens was engaged in neo-Platonic mysticism and magic. There was nothing rational or scientific about its programme. (source: "The last days of the academy of Athens" by Alan Cameron, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 195 (1969).
If that's monotheism, the word has lost all meaning. What Harpur describes via Budge (assuming he is even still regarded as right) would be multi-hypostatic monolatry, not monotheism.
But this is not the same as the Ichthus symbol, and is not a case of Augustine perceiving a one-to-one identity between the fish and Jesus.
Update February 2012: Tekton Research Assistant "Punkish" earns a gold star again for finding the answer. The quote is from Ambrose, not Augustine, and reads rather differently. See more on this here.
One note of mention on the claim to parallel the beheaded John the Baptist with the "later beheaded" Anup: I have found in various places that Anup is identified with Anubis, and that Anubis was often tied to a symbol: the headless stuffed skin of a large cat. This was called the imiut and I am left to wonder if Massey managed to read the two together and create a story out of what he imagined he saw.
Harpur is certainly unaware of the equation of Anup with Anubis as he calls the former a "minor deity" . None of Harpur's claims about Horus are supported with references to primary Egyptian literature and will be regarded as false until he provides such backup.
On Irenaeus’ “four winds” comment: more likely, though not discernibly, Ireaneus was "simply confirming a concept that (was) well established in the churches" by means of a natural analogy rather than saying that is why four were chosen. On Irenaeus’ “fifty” comment see here.
Bible scholar? Barnes was the father of historical revisionism and had various unreasonable ideas; he was a historian and sociologist, but not a Bible scholar.
That's a low context, modern idea; never mind as well that Paul actually spoke little of "fundamentals" but was more often addressing specific problems Jesus never anticipated (i.e., meat sacrificed to idols).
Kuhn compares it to a history of the American Revolution never mentioning George Washington; well, no, not quite. Make that a history of the Revolution that never mentions Washington's birthplace, or what he ate for dinner, or what kind of horse he rode, because such details would be irrelevant and trivial in context.
Thus ends our critique, and we now move to accessory material.
Someone made Harpur aware of Gasque's reply, and a reader directed us to Harpur's response, as well as his own comments on Harpur's response.Here is the reply, with the reader's comments and a few of our own as needed:
To date, there have been three categories of criticism of The Pagan Christ:
(i) the general professional academic, who despite the explanation at the beginning of the book that it was not written for scholars (hence the minimum of footnotes) insists that the lack of lengthy references, suitable for a Ph.D. thesis, undermines the book's integrity. This is nonsense;
(i) the lack of lengthy references undermines the book’s integrity, not because it wouldn’t be suitable for a Ph.D. thesis, but because Harpur is putting forth extraordinary claims; he needs to back up these claims with good references;
Another added, "Harpur used the work of "esteemed Egyptologist E. Wallis Budge." Budge died in 1934; I would think the archaeological study of Egypt has advanced over the past 70 years. Did Harpur consult an archaeologist who is still alive?"
(ii) the scholars with some credentials in Egyptology, who have not yet come across the same findings, who haven't read the same sources, but who resist any intrusion into their field. I have come to realize that if you put any ten Egyptologists into a room you'll get ten different opinions on the same data; and
(ii) the Egyptologists and other scholars -- the point isn’t that scholars are unanimous on everything; the point is that no Egyptologist would agree with the majority of Harpur’s claims, as Gasque noted;
Another added the wry point, "Harpur claims 10 Egyptologists in a room would not agree on anything; does this mean he could not find even one who would agree with him?" It is not at all a matter of "not coming across the same findings" -- it is a matter of real scholars who know their field not reaching the opinions of those who are not real scholars. The retory about "intrusion" and "ten different opinions" is not an answer with actual, hard data.
(iii) the ultra-conservative and/or fundamentalist Christians, who are always deeply threatened by any ideas that do not support and agree with their traditional beliefs.
(iii) Harpur appears deeply threatened by ideas that do not support and agree with his beliefs; these threatening “ideas” come from mainstream scholarship in Egyptology and New Testament studies.
Quite correct; Harpur is missing the fact that this diversion can be turned right back on to him. After paragraph about "bias" Harpur continues:
Gasque states that "virtually none of the alleged evidence for the views put forward in The Pagan Christ is documented by reference to original sources." Anyone reading the book will find numerous references to such original sources as The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Pyramid Texts, the Book of Thoth. The works of the esteemed Egyptologist E. Wallis Budge are also cited.
In 213 pages, Budge is "cited" exactly once -- in the first note for Chapter 5, and in support of nothing particulary germane to Harpur's "pagan christ" thesis. As noted above, Budge's work is also greatly outdated. These and references to original documents, as Gasque correctly notes, account for virtually none of the citations.
Gasque is critical of my statement that "Paul's Jesus lacks any human quality for the very reason that, in Paul's understanding, he was not a human person at all." But, of this claim there can be no doubt - numerous other writers and authorities over the centuries have noticed the same thing. Paul's Jesus is a non-historical, Gnostic or mystical reality, as brought out extremely well most recently by Earl Doherty in The Jesus Puzzle.
Reader: Harpur’s statement that “Paul’s Jesus lacks any human quality for the very reason that, in Paul’s understanding, he was not a human person at all” is doubted by the vast majority of New Testament scholars. It is not surprising that virtually everyone who reads Paul’s letters comes away with the impression that Paul believed in a historical Jesus. Being told that Earl Doherty, B.A., disagrees is unenlightening. From Paul’s undisputed writings, we can learn that Jesus: was a human being, a Jew, a descendant of David; had disciples, including Peter and John; led an exemplary life; referred to God as “Abba;” taught about end-time events, divorce, and a preacher’s wages; instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper; was crucified by earthly rulers, died, and was resurrected. (See Romans 1:3; 6:4; 8:15; 15:3, 8; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2, 8; 7:10-11; 9:1, 14; 11:23-25; 15:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 10:1; 13:4; Galatians 1:18-19; 2:9; 3:1, 16; 4:4, 6; Philippians 2:6-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 4:15.) A gnostic may read Paul’s letters and hope to interpret all of the statements about the life of Jesus symbolically. But one cannot easily pretend that the idea of a gnostic Jesus arises from a reading of the text itself.
Of course we have had our own refutation of Doherty here.
His statement that the name Jesus is a Greek derivation of a semitic name "Jeshu'a" borne by many in the first century is grossly misleading. The name Yeshua or Yehoshua is the title of the earliest Hebrew hero, Joshua, many centuries earlier; the Septuagint, (the Greek version of the Old Testament) has the word Jesus about 200 times and it was written c. 300-250 B.C.E.) Yahweh, which is also related to Yehoshua, according to Diodorus Siculus (a primary source) in the first century BCE comes from the Egyptian IAO. I have read Massey and Kuhn on this-which Gasque has not-and he is simply wrong. The origins of Jesus as a name go far back into earliest times and in fact lie behind the much later Jewish terms.
Reader: Can Harpur find any living scholars who agree with him concerning the etymology of “Jesus”? He will not; Massey and Kuhn made this up. It is also a false lead to appeal to Diodorus; see here on a list populated with Greek scholars; Diodorus says that this name was given to Yahweh by Moses, and it is regarded as a corruption of Jah. Diodorus wrote between 90-21 BC and is manifestly too late to be taken as an authority on such a detailed linguistic argument.
He says there is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born. This is simply false. There are various versions of how Horus was conceived, it is true. But, all of them involve a miraculous birth. In one tradition, Isis was impregnated by "a flash of lightening or by the rays of the moon." In The Golden Bough, Frazer tells how Isis conceived "while she fluttered in the form of a hawk over the corpse of her dead husband." In the ancient Syrian and Egyptian rituals of the nativity, the celebrants retired into inner shrines from which at midnight they issued with a loud cry "the Virgin has brought forth!" The Egyptians even represented the newborn sun by the image of an infant, which on his birthday, the winter solstice, was brought out and exhibited to the worshippers. Isis retained her virginity perpetually and was given the epithets "Immaculate Virgin" and "uncontaminated goddess," as well as "Mother of God." By the way, I nowhere suggest that the N.T. Mary was a goddess like Isis, as Gasque says. But, there were so many images and statuettes of Isis holding the baby saviour, Horus, throughout the ancient Mediterranean world that when Christianity finally triumphed these same figures became those of the Madonna and child without any break in continuity. No archaeologist can now tell whether some of these artifacts represent the one or the other.
Harpur skims over the fact that not ONE of these as described is a "virgin" birth -- he skips from "virgin" to "miraculous". Isis may have been returned to virginity by some means, but the impregnation was clearly not accomplished without violence to the original virginity. One would like better documentation for the claim of "ancient Syrian and Egyptian rituals".
Harpur misreads Gasque, who does not say that Harpur makes Mary a goddess; Gasque merely points out the difference. One would like affirmation that "no archaeologist" has the expertise Harpur boldly claims they do not have and that such statues were indeed "numerous."
Regarding the age of Osirian religion, which Gasque naively assumes began in 2350 BCE, primary sources (which he declares I never refer to) such as the historian Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus make clear that the oral tradition indicates he "walked the earth" as God's Incarnation thousands of years previously. Osiris was both God and man exactly the same as Jesus. So were a host of other ancient deities. What's more, the Incarnation was also believed in for millennia BCE in Vedic religion. Krishna and Buddha both reflect this widespread belief.
Harpur is appealing to Herodotus and Siculus, writing thousands of years after the fact. One wonders why he takes their word as reliable on events thousands of years in their past, while rejecting the Gospels as accurate records of what happened mere decades (even by his reckoning) in their own past.
The remainder about Osiris "walking the earth" is not a reply to Gasque (and requires better documentation), but is false: Jesus was not the same as Osiris in this respect, nor Krishna or Buddha, for Osiris was not a hypostasis of a deity. Osiris was himself incarnate.
Gasque denies that Horus had twelve disciples. This he says is a "questionable claim." However, the twelve disciple gods is a prominent theme in the ancient Egyptian religion (as also in the cult of Mithras). Horus, the sun god, is surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac, his "helpers" and "disciples."
This is again the same equivocation done with Mithra in the zodiac: The zodiac signs are changed, by linguistic equivocation, into "disciples". Let it be shown that those zodiac signs were in a teacher-student relationship with Osiris, and perhaps we can have something tangible.
Gasque says that "according to Harpur there is no evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived ." It's not according to Harpur-despite all the conservative sophistry there's NO solid evidence for him of an extra-biblical kind contemporaneous with the time of Jesus' alleged advent on earth. The fact that Gasque's unaware of this reality or of the many books (which I cite) being written today on this theme, (eg. The Jesus Puzzle, Doherty, The Jesus Mysteries, Freke and Gandy, The Fabrication of the Christ Myth, Leidner, etc.) argues against his own pompous stance of expertise unlimited. If he possesses such evidence, as he implies, he should produce it forthwith. The entire world waits with baited breath for his "incontrovertible evidence" of an historical Jesus' existence.
That is found here; the reader noted: In an email in October 2003, I asked Harpur if he could name any scholars who agreed with him that there was no historical Jesus. He only named Earl Doherty, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, and Harold Leidner. These were the same people he listed in his May 16, 2004, article for the Toronto Star. And we find them listed again in Harpur’s reply to Gasque. This is an unimpressive list: Doherty has a B.A. in ancient history and classical languages; Freke has a B.A. in philosophy; Gandy has an M.A. in classical civilization; and Leidner has an LL.B. in law. Certainly, it is possible that people with such credentials could make informed decisions about what to believe regarding history and religion. However, one should be alarmed that Harpur was unable to name any scholars that support his views.
Harpur closes, ignoring correction of the most obvious errors picked up from his source (i.e., KRST), appeals to himself as a scholar, and that is all. We close with these comments from our informant:
Harpur appears content to believe that the vast majority of Egyptologists and New Testament scholars are wrong about a plethora of facts and interpretations. Of course, Harpur may believe as he chooses. However, he should embrace the fact that he speaks for a minority of lay researchers, instead of pretending that he’s merely popularizing the discoveries of modern scholarship.
I have also found lately more of a reply on Harpur's own site.
The comment that an early source, Godfrey Higgins, could have "no value whatsoever because hieroglypics had not yet been deciphered" at the time he wrote, is stunningly pompous! According to that theory, Christian writers over the centuries who had no access to the hieroglypics either have all held opinions on Egyptian religion and culture which likewise would have no value.
And as a matter of fact, despite Harpur's retort, this is completely correct. Christian and other writers with no access to hieroglyphics should indeed have been taken with a grain of salt, barring access to other equitable tools -- which Higgins did not (e.g., a native informant among Egyptians.)
Talk of "pompous" though comes ironically in light of Harpur's next comment:
And, the fact remains, that not one of the would-be detractors of The Pagan Christ has read the works of Godfrey Higgins, Gerald Massey, or Alvin Boyd Kuhn. This is not the mark of a truly scholarly critique.
And we suppose that the US Geological Survey can be shut up simply by noting that they have "not read" the works of the Flat Earth Society? Harpur's "et tu" will not change the fact that none of these writers is recognized as credentialed in Egyptology, and have been preserved not by reputation in the field, but by mystics and cultists and Theosophists who were also of no relevant credit.
By the way, Alvin Boyd Kuhn was not an "autodidact" as Gasque falsely has claimed, but a highly educated man with a PhD from Columbia University. His book, The Lost Light, by Academy Press, New Jersey, bears on its title page the following quote: "This book will be to religion what Darwin's work has been to science" with attribution to President National Library Board, USA.
In fact his Ph. D., as noted above, was of no relevance; he did nothing peer-reviewed in the subject area at hand, and if Harpur thinks posting publisher praose is of any effect, then why can't we just quote some McDowell about the Bible being such a great book and then watch Harpur surrender? So who is this "President" and what credentials does he have? This is the type of information Harpur would prefer not to look into.
A scholar named Gordon Heath has written a review of Harpur's book here (PDF format).
Recently Harpur has also given readers some "advice" for dealing with criticisms of his book. His three points are all intended to obfuscate the issues while avoiding the real problems of the inadequacy of his case.
1. The first thing to do in examining critical comment is to determine the nature of the source itself—is it part of the ecclesiastical apparatus and thus possessed of an agenda of its own? If the reviewer is a priest, a church official, or a professor at seminary, for example, is he or she at all likely to be neutral over a book that challenges the very underpinnings of official Christianity?
Harpur is missing that this same point can be turned around on him: "The first thing to do in examining critical comment is to determine the nature of the source itself—is it part of the anti-ecclesiastical apparatus and thus possessed of an agenda of its own? If the reviewer is an apostate former professor at seminary, for example, is he or she at all likely to be neutral over a review that challenges the very underpinnings of their book?"
We do not engage that sort of tactic, which is used by those who are unable to address arguments on merit and are looking for a way to prejudice the debate.
2. Then one should ask the key question: Does this critic give any sign or evidence whatever that he or she has read the key sources upon which the chief arguments of the book have been based? None of the critical reviews I have read so far pass this acid test of intellectual integrity. Higgins, Massey, and Kuhn remain hidden territory for them.
This misses the point that Higgins, Massey and Kuhn, being non-credentialed in their field and totally unrecognized by credentialed scholars in Egyptology, are the ones who need to prove themselves; it is just as well to suggest that Einstein ought to have read the works of a third-grader who thought quarks were made of whipped cream.
0The demand is one of the person who cannot accept that his sources are unrespected by those in the know. Nevertheless, two points in reply.
The first is that I, at least, have read much of Massey, Kuhn, and Higgins, and found them deeply flawed (see links above).
Second, if Harpur says we need to read these also to "get" his points, then it seems to me that Harpur himself must have represented their works inadequately, if he leaves them so vulnerable to criticism by scholars. That said, if Harpur is able to actually respond to any criticism by showing where a depth reading of these three is needed, that is one thing; as it is, this response, with no such specifics, is merely a distraction from the inadequacy of his sources.
3. You will notice the general professional academic, who despite the explanation at the beginning of the book that it was not written for scholars (hence the minimum of footnotes) illogically insists that the lack of lengthy references, suitable for a Ph.D. thesis, undermines the book's integrity. Critics will always try to repudiate sources even if the material presented is factual.
This is little more than a contrivance for Harpur's inability to provide the needed substantiation for his views. The fact is that what Harpur presents as his thesis is rejected by the overwhelming body of scholarship, whether liberal or conservative; and such incredibly counter-consensus views require -- for a responsible writer -- a wealth of documenation in reply to the consensus.
To not provide this, and to bypass peer review with a popular presentation, is a signal that Harpur can place no academic confidence in his positions; that he knows he can not and will not survive scholarly peer review, and that he wished to impose his views upon a less critical public at large. "I didn't write it for scholars" is not an adequate validation for academic indifference.
4. Lastly, and most important of all, there is the crucial question to be asked: “Is this review/criticism/charge concerned about the main theses of The Pagan Christ—its leading arguments—or is it rather a matter essentially of a nit-picking, scatter-gun attack aimed at discrediting the book at any cost?
The rub of this objection -- which is quite vague -- is that "leading arguments" in Pagan Christ are themselves little more than a series of disconnected, jumbled "nits" the size of scatter-gun ammo. Harpur clearly does not have the discipline to write an extended narrative coherently; while his writing talents work well for a newspaper column, in which short, declarative assertions can make for an adequate presentation, in a book purporting to overturn scholarly consensus, it is merely something that makes him look like he is swimming out of his depth.
Comparing the book to Harpur's columns, it appears that much of the book is just his columns reproduced verbatim, and that is why TPC is indeed nothing but a set of "pickable nits" as he puts it.
The question is: When will Harpur actually respond to any of these criticisms, as opposed to engaging in distractions? Not anytime soon. Lately here is some more "advice" he gives his readers:
A. Contrary to what most people believe, there is no general unity among Egyptologists on every issue. "Egyptology" simply means the study of Egypt, and what I have found is that every "Egyptologist" I have read or heard from has his or her own individual interpretation of the same data. In the Pagan Christ, I have worked extensively with several Egyptologists. It comes down to a question of whose interpretations stand up to scrutiny and common sense. The fact that certain "Egyptologists" may not agree with this work does not surprise me. To begin with, unless they have read the fundamental works I am using, they are not in a position to give a scholarly critique. What’s more, that's the whole point of the book! It's high time this material was widely known and studied. The Pagan Christ has a timely message for Christianity, other religions, and the world. All the nit-picking and distorting of its message can't change that.
First of all, Harpur's commentary about there being "no general unity among Egyptologists on every issue" obscures the fact that among professional Egyotpologists, there certainly IS unity on the point that theories like those of Kuhn and Massey are completely without validity. Harpur is trying to use disagreement on different issues as support for his own theories, and that is thoroughly dishonest.
Second, while indeed the word "Egyptologist" has been misused by numerous non-scholars (such as Yosef ben-Jochanon) with no credentials or training, the simple fact is that only those who have become credentialed in their field of Egyptology have any right to speak authoritatively or to be listened to on these matters. If Harpur consulted with an "Egyptologist" who was just some comic book collector with a fascination for Isis, it is wrong to suggest that he has thereby obtained a source with the authority and worth to undermine someone like Kenneth Kitchen with peer-reviewed credit and a curriculum vitae in Egyptology with dozens of entries.
Appeals to "common sense" and "interpretations" is a diversion from arguing actual fact. It is unrealistic to suggest that Kenneth Kitchen would change his mind and abandon all of his writings if only he were exposed to Gerald Massey's material.
Nevertheless, we have read works of Higgins, Kuhn and Massey for no other purpose than to silence Harpur's criticism on this point. Any person who gives Kuhn credence after reading his treatise The Esoteric Structure of the Alphabet is critically beyond hope.
B. Alvin Boyd Kuhn was a highly educated man with a PhD from Columbia University. His thesis was published by Henry Holt of New York as part of a Columbia University series on world religions. His book, The Lost Light, by Academy Press, New Jersey, bears on its title page the following quote: "This book will be to religion what Darwin's work has been to science" with attribution to President of the National Library Board, USA. Most of Kuhn’s later work was self-published, a very common occurrence in his day by those whose work was too scholarly or controversial for a popular press. Many brilliant people have published their own works, for example, Rudolf Steiner and Walt Whitman, America’s best-known poet.
We have addressed part of this above. As for the rest, there were also ample numbers of scholarly publishers for Kuhn to go to; saying that his work was "too controversial" merely leads to the point that the controversy is exactly caused by his inability in the field. There is absolutely no comparison to a poet like Whitman; publishing poetry yourself is not a way to bypass the critical review process when you have enormous counter-consensus claims to present (as Steiner, also an occultist, did as well).
C. Some may be critical of my statement that "Paul's Jesus lacks any human quality for the very reason that, in Paul's understanding, he was not a human person at all." But, of this claim there can be no doubt - numerous other writers and authorities over the centuries have noticed the same thing. Paul's Jesus is a non-historical, Gnostic or mystical reality, as brought out extremely well most recently by Earl Doherty in The Jesus Puzzle and other current commentaries.
And we of course have answered Doherty's claims directly and in detail. When will Harpur do the same for our answer to him? Let it be added that "numerous other writers and authorities" have not thereby also reached the conclusion that Jesus did not exist as a person, or that he was a "Gnostic or mystic reality".
D. The name Yeshua or Yehoshua is the title of the earliest Hebrew hero, Joshua, many centuries earlier; the Septuagint, (the Greek version of the Old Testament) has the word Jesus about 200 times and it was written c. 300-250 B.C.E.) Yahweh, which is also related to Yehoshua, according to Diodorus Siculus (a primary source) in the first century BCE comes from the Egyptian IAO. The origins of Jesus as a name thus go far back into earliest times and in fact lie behind the much later Jewish terms. Herodotus in Book II c.43 confirms this. So does the ancient Phoenician symbol later rendered as IHS.
As we have noted in more than one place, there is yet to be any evidence of an actual Egyptian deity named IAO. This has so far proven to be an invention of Theosophist authors, all relying in Massey, who himself provided no documenation of this name or being actually existing in Egyptian records, much less having the claimed significance.
Herodotus' 2.43 "confirms" nothing of the sort claimed; it is about Hercules and does not mention an "Iao". Nor is any connection extant between the IHS symbol and any Phoenician symbol, other than by occult sources without any scholarly credence. If this is not the case, let Harpur show otherwise.
E. There are various versions of how Horus was conceived, but, all of them involve a miraculous birth. In one tradition, Isis was impregnated by "a flash of lightening or by the rays of the moon." In The Golden Bough, Frazer tells how Isis conceived "while she fluttered in the form of a hawk over the corpse of her dead husband." In the ancient Syrian and Egyptian rituals of the nativity, the celebrants retired into inner shrines from which at midnight they issued with a loud cry "the Virgin has brought forth!" The Egyptians even represented the newborn sun by the image of an infant, which on his birthday, the winter solstice, was brought out and exhibited to the worshippers. Isis retained her virginity perpetually and was given the epithets "Immaculate Virgin" and "uncontaminated goddess," as well as "Mother of God." By the way, I nowhere suggest that the N.T. Mary was a goddess like Isis, as one critic says. But, there were so many images and statuettes of Isis holding the baby saviour, Horus, throughout the ancient Mediterranean world that when Christianity finally triumphed these same figures became those of the Madonna and child without any break in continuity. No archaeologist can now tell whether some of these artifacts represent the one or the other. Contemporary Egyptologists such as Eric Hornung and before that Siegfried Morenz (Egyptian Religion) confirm this strong linkage.
Notice how Harpur equiviocates with the term "miraculous" when the issue is rather a virginal birth, not merely any more general birth with a miraculous element. The example from Frazer has Isis clearly fluttering over the dead Osiris' penis -- not exactly a virginal element.
The remaining claims about rituals and titles we ignore; Harpur documents none of these. The connection between Madonna depcitions and earlier Isis depictions is a non sequitir in context -- it is nothing but the sort of comptetitive adaptation we refer to in our item on Mithra, providing no evidence of ideological adaptation.
F. Regarding the age of Osirian religion, primary sources such as the historian Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus make clear that the oral tradition indicates he "walked the earth" as God's Incarnation thousands of years previously. Osiris was both God and man exactly the same as Jesus. So were a host of other ancient deities. What's more, the Incarnation was also believed in for millennia BCE in early Vedic religion. Krishna and Buddha both reflect this widespread belief.
So Harpur is willing to accept as valid thousands of years of oral tradition from Herodotus, etc., but isn't willing to accept the reliable transmission of the Gospel records over mere decades (even by the late daye he assigns them)? Let the inconsistency speak for itself. But no -- Osiris was not an incarnated hypostasis of a superior deity, nor was any other ancient deity. The remainder is too vague to require comment.
G. Some deny that Horus had twelve disciples. However, the twelve disciple gods is a prominent theme in the ancient Egyptian religion (as also in the cult of Mithras). Horus, the sun god, is surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac, his "helpers" and "disciples." Some of them were fisherman.
Once again this an admission of defeat disguised with a thinly-veiled equivocation. Both Mithra and Horus are associated with the zodiacal signs, then, and the zodiacal signs did not have a teacher-student relationship with either Mithra or Horus (and the picture of Mithra is centuries later than Jesus; I know of none with Horus, but will assume for the sake of argument that it exists and is pre-Christian, neither of which Harpur documents). Nor is there any proof that any of the zodiacal signs were "fishermen".
H. To date there has been no incontrovertible evidence of an historical Jesus' existence. I recommend reading the seven books of British scholar G.A. Wells on this, and also the latest two by Robert Price, whose books deal specifically with this theme.
We of course have dealt refutations to each of these writers -- see their entries in our Encyclopedia; and they are countered by the vast consensus of scholars on all sides. Wells is not even a scholar in this field, and has even changed his mind lately about the Christ-myth. We have yet to see Harpur address any of our arguments, much less deal with critical data like references to Jesus in secular sources.
I. Gerald Massey, described as an Egyptologist in the edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911 (he died in 1908), worked not only with leading Egyptologists at the British Museum. He used the primary sources supplied by such outstanding archaeologists and Egyptologists as H. Edouard Naville, who authored many books based upon his own expeditions and research, especially at the Horus shrine, the temple of Edfu at Abydos. He drew particularly upon his work, Textes Relatifs au Mythe d’Horus recueillis dans le temple d’Edfu. (Geneva; H. George, 1870).
Harpur is right about the 1911 item; but mysteriously silent about whether later editions continued to give Massey this designation. It seems that these days Massey is so obscure that he does not even warrant an entry (as in the most recent Columbia encyclopedia, from bartleby.com).
"Worked with" is rather vague; for all we know Massey polished their spectacles or was a janitor in the museum, and if Massey "used the primary sources" it is far from clear in his works, which are remarkably short on documentation.
The text referred to by Harpur, incidentally, is one he has assuredly not read; it is not found in OCLC in any library, but if he has read it (I have been told that despite OCLC, it is available at the University of Toronto and elsewhere), and has somehow managed to get and read a copy, we'd like to see a critical comparison to Massey's work showing exactly where he used it.
A reader we will refer to as "P." recently shared with us his correspondence with Harpur and gave us permission to use it. It fairly well speaks for itself.
In early October 2003, an agnostic friend brought to my attention an article by Tom Harpur. From Harpur's article, "America obsessed with future apocalypse" (Oct. 5, 2003):
People totally ignore the fact that the author nowhere claims to have known the "historical Jesus" and is very vague about the Apostles. They ignore as well the reality that the Christ of the Apocalypse is not the "personal Jesus" of the Gospels but a cosmic intelligence and principle. He is the spiritual Christ of Pauline mysticism.
Let me illustrate this with two passages I have never heard any preacher mention. In Revelation 11, verses 8-9, we read: "And the dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is … called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified."
The Gospels say Jerusalem was the place of crucifixion. But this says it was Sodom and Egypt. Sodom was destroyed centuries before; Egypt is obviously not a city. What this means is that the crucifixion was in reality a spiritual transaction not rooted in any historical place whatever. The entire story is symbolic.
Revelation 1:13 describes the Christ as an androgynous figure with "paps" or female breasts. Plainly this has nothing do with a historic Jesus or any coming events on this planet.
I wrote to Harpur (Oct. 15, 2003):
You excluded the Greek word meaning 'spiritually' from your quote of Revelation 11:8. I looked up the verse in various translations: KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, and several others. I found no support for your interpretation. The meaning is obvious, and is spelled out in the CEV: "Their bodies will be left lying in the streets of the same great city where their Lord was nailed to a cross. And that city is spiritually like the city of Sodom or the country of Egypt." It means that the city is like Sodom in its immorality and like Egypt in its oppression.
Furthermore, your conclusion that "the crucifixion was in reality a spiritual transaction not rooted in any historical place whatever" is groundless. The crucifixion of Jesus is one of the best-attested events of his life. That is the consensus of the prolific scholars John P. Meier, Raymond E. Brown, N. T. Wright, and even liberals such as John Dominic Crossan.
Consider these statements from The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge University Press, 2001), which are typical of Jesus scholars: Joel B. Green (p. 88): "Among the data available to us regarding Jesus of Nazareth, none is more incontrovertible than his execution on a Roman cross by order of Pontius Pilate." Christopher Tuckett (p. 136): "One of the indisputable facts about Jesus is that he was crucified."
You claimed: "Revelation 1:13 describes the Christ as an androgynous figure with 'paps' or female breasts."
Firstly, 'paps' simply means 'nipples.' Secondly, the only translation that uses the word 'paps' is the King James Version, translated in 1611. English has changed a lot since then. You should have consulted a modern translation. The verse simply refers to his 'chest' or 'breast.' Thirdly, note that the verse says 'son of man,' not 'daughter' or 'androgynous figure.' The verse does not imply an androgynous Christ.
Harpur replied (Oct. 15, 2003):
Your eisegesis of "like" into the text of Rev. 11:8 is gratuitous and mistaken. It says quite simply pneumatikos (omega) and this means spiritually, ie, allegorically or esoterically in the ancient wisdom. The full esoteric meaning of Sodom and Egypt I leave for my new book, The Pagan Christ, Recovering the Lost Light, set for April 10, 2004, by Thos. Allen, Toronto.
I needn't consult a modern translation re. "paps" as I taught advanced NT Greek at TST for a number of years and read the Koine fluently. Th fact of the girdle alone signifies female breasts. Your sources are wrong on this just as they are re. the historicity of the crucifixion. There are at least 48 crucified saviours from antiquity. Jesus fulfills every aspect of the universal mythos and his name appears in Egyptian rituals 18,000 years BCE.
I replied (Oct. 16, 2003):
You wrote: "I needn't consult a modern translation re. 'paps' … The fact of the girdle alone signifies female breasts."
Concerning the Greek word "mastois" (translated as "paps" in KJV), you should be aware that this term can refer to males. In Pausanias' Description of Greece, book 9, chapter 34, section 4, he refers to springs that are "shaped like a woman's breasts" ("gunaikos mastois eisin eikasmenai"). The word "gunaikos" would have been redundant if "mastois" only referred to women. Also, take a look at these passages, which all definitely refer to males:
Homer's Iliad, book 4, line 528: "mazoio"
Homer's Iliad, book 8, line 121: "mazon"
Homer's Odyssey, book 22, line 82: "mazon"
Xenophon's Anabasis, book 1, chapter 4, section 17: "maston"
Xenophon's Anabasis, book 4, chapter 3, section 6: "maston"
These terms can also refer to females, of course (e.g., "gunaika te thesato mazon" [Homer's Iliad, book 24, line 58], "proukeito maston peronis" [Sophocles' Trachiniae, line 925]).
Furthermore, a girdle does not signify female breasts. The Greek word translated as "girdle" in Revelation 1:13 is also used to describe the garments of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6) and Paul (Acts 21:11). The word simply means "belt" or "band." A girdle is a belt or band that encircles the body. Again, Revelation 1:13 does not imply an androgynous Christ.
I will leave you with a couple questions:
Do you know of any Bible handbooks, Bible commentaries, or study Bibles that agree with your interpretation of Revelation 11:8?
I named six scholars who agree that the crucifixion is definitely historical. (I could have named a hundred.) Can you name any scholars who agree with you concerning the (lack of) historicity of the crucifixion?
Harpur replied (Oct. 18, 2003):
You fail to comprehend. Read my new book in the spring. All your queries will be answered. Meanwhile read The Jesus Mysteries, (T.Freke and P. Gandy, The Jesus Puzzle, E. Doherty, and three or four of the great classics by Godfrey Higgins, gerald Massey, and A.B. Kuhn.
TWH This is my final communication
Because Harpur indicated that he did not want to continue to communicate with me, I did not send him any further emails. However, I did write a conclusion that I gave to the friend who brought Harpur's article to my attention:
Harpur's statement that the "Christ of the Apocalypse is not the 'personal Jesus' of the Gospels" is misleading. Some people could interpret this as meaning that Jesus is not mentioned in Revelation. Jesus is named in Revelation 1:1, 2, 5, 9; 12:17; 14:12; 17:6; 19:10; 20:4; 22:16, 20, 21.
Harpur contrasts the "personal Jesus" of the Gospels with the "spiritual Christ of Pauline mysticism." For over 1900 years, Christians have believed that the Jesus of the Gospels and the Christ of Paul are identical. Paul certainly cared about the historical Jesus. From Paul's undisputed writings, we can learn that Jesus: was a human being; a Jew; a descendant of David; had disciples, including Peter, John, and James; led an exemplary life; referred to God as "Abba"; taught about end-time events, divorce, and the wages of a preacher; instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper; was crucified by earthly rulers; died; and was resurrected. (See Romans 1:3; 6:4; 8:15; 15:3, 8; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2, 8; 7:10-11; 9:1, 14; 11:23-25; 15:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 10:1; 13:4; Galatians 1:18-19; 2:9; 3:1, 16; 4:4, 6; Philippians 2:6-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 4:15.) This is the same Jesus that we find in the Gospels.
None of the authors named by Harpur are New Testament scholars in general or Jesus scholars in particular. Godfrey Higgins (1773-1833) wrote The Celtic Druids.
Gerald Massey (1828-1907) wrote Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World and Moon Worship: Ancient and Modern. He was a poet, Shakespearean scholar, mythographer, and radical Egyptologist.
Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880-1963) wrote Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom and The Lost Light: An Interpretation of Ancient Scriptures. Kuhn's, Massey's, and Higgins' works are published by Kessinger Publishing (publishers of "rare philosophy, freemasonry and self-help books," according to their webpage).
Earl Doherty (who's highest degree is a B.A. in ancient history and classical languages) wrote The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ?. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy wrote The Hermetica: The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God? and Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians. Freke's highest degree is a B.A. in philosophy; Gandy's highest degree is an M.A. in classical civilization.
Harpur failed my challenge to name any scholars who deny the historicity of the crucifixion.
Also, you should note that in his original article he quotes 25 out of 26 words in Revelation 11:8, replacing the word "spiritually" with "...". It seems to me that he wasn't trying to save space, but to mislead. His strategy was as follows:
1. Remove word meaning "spiritually" or "allegorically" from the location (Sodom and Egypt)
2. Point out that the verse can't be _literally_ true
3. Insert the words "spiritual" and "symbolic" into the event (crucifixion)
His misunderstanding of the words "paps" and "girdle" is both sad and amusing. He thinks he knows more about Greek than Homer, Xenophon, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
And now here's a bit of fun for the satirist in all of us. A reader gave us leave (pun intended) to use this parody of Harpur's "phraseology and investigative methods (?) to prove ('beyond a shadow of a doubt') that the Toronto Maple Leafs are not real people but are meant to be understood as a rehashing of an ancient Egyptian allegory concerning the incarnation of the divine in man." Enjoy!
It is hard for me even now to believe that throughout all my previous training in and inquiry into the spiritual and religious dimensions of life I could have missed something so important: Maple Leaf NHL broadcasts are actually allegories of the great struggle of the spirit in each of us to realize our own divinity. Indeed, the latest scholarship establishes beyond a doubt that the single vast theme of all NHL broadcasts is the incarnation of the divine in the human. Originally this ancient wisdom was immersed in the symbolism of myth to protect it from profanation by the vulgar or the malicious, but when it was taken over by certain fundamentalist elements in the media, they imposed a literalist interpretation to this sublime truth, and as it was transformed for popular consumption it lost its spiritual significance - its very soul. I consider it my sacred duty to educate the ignorant masses and recover this lost light, which is vital if we are to evolve to a higher level of spiritual consciousness.
We have been led to believe that the rituals and symbols of the Maple Leaf game are unique, but how surprised regular viewers of NHL broadcasts will be to learn that all of these, everything - from the national anthems to the final sips from the cup - already existed in ancient Egyptian sources!
Consider the playing surface itself: the red dots on the ice are actually ancient symbols of the sun god. All ancient religion began as astronomical and astrological in nature, and the sun, the giver of life, always figured prominently. So it is not surprising to find so many references to the sun god in a hockey rink. The ice, (frozen) water, is the ancient symbol for matter. Water (matter) gives birth to spirit with the aid of the sun. While the five circles ("rings") on the ice surface represent the five planets - the original five planets of the ancient mystery religions - we should note that five is also the number of the cross; stand with arms outstretched and the body comprises 5 parts (2 arms, 2 legs and body and head) to form a cross. The cross of course, with its vertical beam representing the divine spirit intersecting the horizontal beam representing the material, is the symbol of God incarnate. It is this cross motif we see repeated in the four zonal faceoff circles, framing each red dot. All of this points to Horus, the Egyptian man-god who was both God incarnate and sun god. The ice surface awakens our awareness of the great mystery - of matter becoming spirit - with its many symbols of Horus, as it was originally intended to. The nets, those ancient symbols of the fisherman, also symbolize Horus who is often depicted as a fisherman in Egyptian manuscripts.
The similarity between the symbols and mythical beings we encounter in Maple Leaf hockey and that which we find in ancient Egyptian religion is astounding, leaving no doubt as to their meaning or origin. Consider the team jersey: the leaf is a symbol rich in meaning in ancient middle-eastern religion, but perhaps it is its unexpected color that is most significant. Why blue? Blue, the color that Kandinsky said draws the individual towards the infinite and awakens a yearning for purity, was the color that ancient Egyptian tombs were painted; blue was thought to be the color that separated mankind from the Beyond. It is most interesting that this blue and white color combination, which re-occurs in the jersey, frequently appears in ancient religion in the struggle between Heaven and Earth, the latter represented by red and green. So we see hockey as symbolizing this struggle, the struggle taking place in all of us for the divine spark to rise above our material body. Note that Don Cherry's dog is called "Blue" although he is in fact white. Literalists who see the jersey and dog as having a material existence in space and time are unable to offer a reasonable explanation as to why the leaf is blue when it ought to be green, and why a dog that is white is called "Blue". It is only when we interpret these things correctly, as symbol and mythical being pointing to a cosmic truth, the divine struggle in all of us, that they make any sense at all.
Another interesting point concerns the "C" on the jersey of the team leader. Originally this was a "K", as we see on the more traditional European team jerseys, but it has been altered by an international conspiracy of broadcasters that continues even today to repress the true meaning of hockey. The "K" comes from the ancient Egyptian word "KRST" found on Egyptian mummies. "KRST" has the root word meaning "to anoint", and Horus is often referred to as the "anointed one". The mummy was anointed with spices to preserve it, as each individual is anointed, or "steeped" in, soul energies that will endure to everlasting life. The name on the "KRST" jersey, "Sundin", is clearly a reference to the sun god. The name "Mats" or "Matthew" has its origin in the place of judgment, the Hall of Maat, where the deceased is led by Horus to his father Osiris' throne to be judged.
Nowhere is the true meaning of hockey more clearly portrayed than at the beginning of the game. The (originally) square TV screen frames the center "faceoff circle". This would have been instantly understood by any educated XXVIth dynasty Egyptian: the square being the symbol for man in virtually all ancient religions, and the circle, God. Thus the circle square is "god within man". This meaning is undeniable despite the fundamentalist's attempt to obscure it by the imposition of the so-called "letterbox" screen format.
The final prize of this struggle to transcend our material bounds, the Stanley Cup, although perhaps a later addition to the myth, is obviously a reference to the Grail - that which Jung said symbolizes "the inner wholeness for which men have always been searching", again clearly a symbol of the human drive for the divine rather than an actual artifact.
In order to convince the skeptics of the inescapable fact that the Maple Leafs are actually mythical beings modeled after ancient Egyptian gods, I offer these, I believe, conclusive proofs: consider the name "Ed Belfour" (bel-four): Bel was the Babylonian god of life, justice, and significantly, fire (a reference to the sun god), as is Horus. Four is rich in cosmic meaning: there's the four cardinal points, four winds, four phases of the moon, four seasons, four elements, four arms of the cross, and so on. It shouldn't surprise us that Ed's symbol is the eagle since Horus, according to myth, was given the hawk as his distinctive symbol, and is often depicted as a hawk-headed figure, as is Eddie when he wears his "mask". And, to remove any doubt that Horus is the prototype for Ed Belfour, the previous goalie "Joseph" (Jo-Seph or "Seb" in Egyptian) was the name of the father of Horus in Egyptian myth! The parallels between the Maple Leaf players and Horus are many and substantial; in fact it can be proven, beyond any doubt, that ALL of the "players" on the Maple Leaf roster are actually figures borrowed from ancient Egyptian mythology and were never real people at all! The story of the damaged eye of Brian Berrard strongly mirrors an episode in the Egyptian Book of the Dead involving Horus, for instance. Those who persist in the literalist interpretation of these "players" as real historical people are unable to answer the question of why, in a culture with so much recorded history, there are no undisputed references to ANY of them anywhere outside of the sports pages! What must be clear to any educated person is that these "people" have never existed - they were meant to be understood allegorically, as symbols of Horus and the cosmic KRST.
In closing, I would like to assure the reader that my purpose in writing this is not to diminish the prestige of hockey - I love hockey; in fact I used to play it. Neither is it to shatter the comfortable security of those well-meaning but spiritually childish people who cling to a superficial understanding of hockey as athletic endeavor. My purpose, rather, is to recover the true meaning of hockey - that points us on our way to the cosmic KRST. Also, when one considers the underlying influence of hockey in much of the violent behavior in our culture, we can see that it is only when everyone has the same understanding of hockey as I do that it will be possible for us to have true harmony.
NEXT: The pagan car lot at Parliament & Queen.