web analytics
Categories
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn Literature

Sifting through a river

It’s amazing how the knowledge I’ve been posting on this site makes me see things very differently than I thought before 2009. Currently, it is difficult for me to read normie authors that I previously loved and, as far as the racialists are concerned, well: as we have seen in my previous entries, they are pretenders of the fourteen words; not true priests of them.

I have also said that I have recently been boxing up some books from my father’s library that will go to a dead archive (inactive files), on a family property. One of the books that I didn’t know about and that I started reading today is a deluxe edition of Arenas Movedizas (Quicksands) by Octavio Paz.

Paz’s work is vast and versatile, but when talking about his literary production, very little is said about the stories that he wrote in 1949 and that he grouped under the name Arenas Movedizas. These are ten short stories that many critics have considered to be fantastic and that expose themes such as absurdity, imagination and the feelings of humans. Two years after writing them, in 1951, they were published in Paz’s ¿Águila o sol? and ten years ago the deluxe edition that we see below appeared, published in Mexico City: the edition I have in front of me.

Today I read the first of the ten stories and I remembered that to the most insightful writer that I have known regarding literature, José Luis Vargas Moreno, who died almost a year ago and whom I nicknamed ‘El Santa’ (he looked like a dark-skinned Santa Claus!), the story bothered him because Paz apparently showed off his blue eyes. Unlike Vargas Moreno, the tale didn’t bother me but rather I was fascinated by a passage from that story, ‘El Ramo Azul’ (The Blue Bouquet):

I raised my face: the stars had also set up camp above. I thought the universe was a vast system of signals, a conversation between immense beings. My actions, the saw of the cricket, the blinking of the star, were nothing but pauses and syllables, scattered phrases of that dialogue. What would be that word of which I was a syllable? [1]

It is curious how the poet sometimes comes to intuit what cosmologists who dabble in metaphysics now say, especially those who begin to intuit that consciousness plays a hidden role in the very structure of the universe.

But I couldn’t bear to read the rest of the Pacian stories. Although there was a poetic phrase from the second story that I identified with, “nuestro pequeño sistema de vida, hecho de erizadas negaciones, muralla circular que defiende dos o tres certidumbres” (our little system of life, made of bristling denials, a circular wall that defends two or three certainties), the rest of the story seemed terribly boring to me.

‘So much for so little’ said Octavio Paz in 1983 in a television program when talking about the poet Góngora of the Spanish golden age, in the sense that it was the best possible use of Spanish (as Shakespeare was of Elizabethan English) but that the message was empty. Of Paz’s second story, I would say ‘so much for nothing’. It was just the vain use of diamond language that pisses me off so much. Why?

Because even before my racial awakening I couldn’t stand those poets who revel in the form of language regardless of the content. Paz wrote his stories when the Hellstorm Holocaust was still being perpetrated in a Europe that Paz loved, but which he never knew about because he was, like every Latin American poet and writer, stuck in the form of language.

Solzhenitsyn had already made fun of this matter in his Archipelago by mentioning Proust. He called Proust’s readers foolish because by reading the famous Frenchman and ignoring reality, they failed to see the holocaust perpetrated in Russia by the communists. I cannot agree more with Solzhenitsyn (those who haven’t watched Gonzalo Lira’s video about the Russian writer should watch it now).

Despite the wise quotes above, I will put Arenas Movedizas in the boxes that will go to the dead files. Most of the book lacks these types of phrases. It’s not worth reading it. It’s like sifting through a river of mud to find a few nuggets of gold.

_____________

[1] Alcé la cara: arriba también habían establecido campamento las estrellas. Pensé que el universo era un vasto sistema de señales, una conversación entre seres inmensos. Mis actos, el serrucho del grillo, el parpadeo de la estrella, no eran sino pausas y sílabas, frases dispersas de aquel diálogo. ¿Cuál sería esa palabra de la cual yo era una sílaba?

Categories
Americanism Literature

Dusting off books

I’ve been boxing up the library my father left behind to send to the cellar of the school he founded decades ago. Incidentally, the short article I wrote last week about John Milton was written thanks to the book I took out from that library (remembering that I had read it, I appropriated it and it will no longer go to the cellar).

Today I was going to post a new entry quoting from Simms’ book. But as I went for a walk to warm up my body this winter morning I decided I’d better talk a bit about a new decision I’ve made: to read old books. Looking through the splendid hardback edition of the book on Milton published in Madrid in 1971, I felt it was a crime to alienate myself so much on the internet instead of using more traditional avenues of information.

For example, in the Tucker interview with Putin that I was talking about yesterday, I omitted that the American’s interruptions, when Putin was telling him the history of his people from the 9th century to the present day, were interruptions caused by someone living in the superficiality of the moment. To have a profound knowledge of something, Aristotle said, it is necessary to know the past. And the same can be said of a person’s biography. The symbol of pop culture that I appropriated in the featured post is precisely that of a fictional character who spends his time looking at the historical and biographical past of Westeros to understand his own culture better and better.

This, of course, is of necessity lost in forums where writers merely comment on the news of the present without proper historical background. Even as much as Andrew Anglin admires Putin, he didn’t understand why he summarised Russian history in less than half an hour (see the repost of Anglin’s article in The Unz Review). As far as my site is concerned, blaming Christianity for the anti-white psychosis of our day implies a deep knowledge of Western history. I don’t mean a normie reading of history, but a reading that could be gleaned from William Pierce’s historical book that I linked yesterday in the comments section (a POV which could also be gleaned from some of Hitler’s after-dinner talks).

In other words, it is a crime to become addicted to the internet when the thing to do is to dust off our parents’ and grandparents’ old books and read (or re-read) them. On Saturday last week, we hired two workers to help me dust off, one by one, the books from my father’s library. The depth of understanding the Aryan decline of someone who knows the past from books, by which I mean not just history books but the literature of the people—literature is the soul of a people!—is so fundamental that even Tucker, after the interview, confessed from his hotel room that it would take him a year to assimilate the historical information Putin tried to convey to him.

An American who lives in the epidermis of the psyche won’t understand the soul of either the Russian people or his own. And here I am not so much referring to Putin as to the interview Mike Wallace did with Solzhenitsyn for 60 Minutes a long time ago (Wallace misunderstood the Russian). In 2020 I mentioned on this site a meeting between American writers and a Russian in which the Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz, a white Mexican, took part. The latter commented that ‘Bentham’s children’ were on completely different wavelengths from the Russian poet. As I see it, the gap cannot be closed unless Americans follow in William Pierce’s footsteps: that their history didn’t begin as recently as the founding of the US, but in the last millennia of white history.

Categories
Homer Literature New Testament Richard Miller

Resistance to NT criticism

See the video uploaded today interviewing Richard C. Miller here.

Mimesis criticism is a method of interpreting texts in relation to their literary or cultural models. Mimesis, or imitation (imitatio), was a widely used rhetorical tool in antiquity. Mimesis criticism looks to identify intertextual relationships between two texts that go beyond simple echoes, allusions, citations or redactions. The effects of imitation are usually manifested in the later text by means of distinct characterisation, motifs, and/or plot structure.

As a critical method, mimesis criticism has been pioneered by Dennis MacDonald, especially in relation to the New Testament and other early Christian narratives imitating the ‘canonical’ works of Classical Greek literature.

Categories
Cicero Judea v. Rome (masthead of this site) Literature

Krauze and the JQ

Last Friday I added a short piece on Spinoza in Mexico Park: a book by the Mexican-Jewish Enrique Krauze that I had just bought. Now that I’ve been reading it, I couldn’t resist the urge to write a critical review of it for The Occidental Observer (TOO). My book review has just been published in that webzine for JQ connoisseurs—click: here!

The following is a passage (my translation) of Spinoza in Mexico Park that I could have quoted in my TOO article:

José María Lassalle: In our last conversation we had covered a decade in your intellectual life: that of your integration into Mexican culture as a historian and as editorial secretary of the magazine Vuelta… The one you described in the first conversation with great detail and love: your culture of origin, Jewish culture. I was very surprised by everything you said. I didn’t know that this root was so deep. It almost covered everything… I understand that you wanted to belong to Mexico and to the Hispanic world, and all your life you have worked to achieve it. But secretly you were driven by that initial impulse, by that root. That root is Judaism: the tree grew in Mexico, in Mexican soil, and bore Mexican fruit, but the root and the trunk were Jewish.

Enrique Krauze: What I did was to build that Jewish compound in Amsterdam [obliquely, Krauze is referring to Spinoza, who was born in Amsterdam]… And I began to build a library of Jewish subjects from all eras. A library, above all, of characters and ideas. [pages 419-420]

Latin Americans idolise their intellectuals and writers, so there are a couple of things I’d like to add to what I wrote in the TOO review.

Besides having enormous fame in the Spanish-speaking world, Krauze is one of those serene-speaking ethnic Jews with subtle but toxic messages for the white world. For example, he hasn’t only translated Susan Sontag for the cultural magazines in Spanish he has edited (I have read Krauze since 1990). In Spinoza in Mexico Park, where he talks a lot about WW2, the historian Krauze doesn’t mention David Irving once. Moreover, Krauze writes ‘Holocaust’ in a capital letter and ‘gulag’ in a lowercase in spite of the fact that far more Gentiles died in the Gulag than Jews in the so-called holocaust!

In the TOO piece I only mentioned a few names of the Jewish authors that influenced Krauze, but Spinoza in Mexico Park is replete with other names of historical Jews, from cover to cover. (There is no notable writer in the Spanish-speaking world to point these things out. That’s why I have been calling Latin America the ‘blue pill’ subcontinent.)

On the dilemma that plagues every Westerner—Athens or Jerusalem?—Krauze wrote the following (my translation) about the Greco-Roman world, in the context of Jewish writers of antiquity, such as Josephus and Philo:

[Jewish historian Arnaldo] Momigliano argues that Jerusalem resisted Athens because of the radical religious obstinacy of the people. The Jewish people remained faithful to the priests, the guardians of orthodoxy. For them, Greek culture was synonymous with idolatry, vain pleasures, frivolous comedies, and pagan myths… The Alexandrian Jews tried to persuade the Greek world of the goodness of their faith… One text points to the excesses of a certain Flaccus, the Roman governor in Egypt, who unleashed a veritable pogrom in that city. Even then, this persecution took on the dramatic forms and dimensions that were to be seen many centuries later in the Middle Ages. The profile he [the Jew Momigliano] draws of the delirious Caligula is a jewel worthy of Suetonius [Spinoza in Mexico Park, pages 430-431].

Regular visitors to The West’s Darkest Hour know that this site has a masthead, a guide that allows us to navigate the seas of history. Compare Krauze’s Jewish POV quoted above with the Aryan POV of our ‘masthead’ (pages 33-123 of The Fair Race’s Darkest Hour, linked in our featured post):

In 62-61 b.c.e., the proconsul Lucius Valerius Flaccus (son of the consul of the same name and brother of the consul Gaius Valerius Flaccus) confiscated the tribute of ‘sacred money’ that the Jews sent to the Temple of Jerusalem. The Jews of Rome raised the populace against Flaccus. The well-known Roman patriot Cicero defended Flaccus against the accuser Laelius (a tribune of the plebs who would later support Pompey against Julius Caesar) and referred to the Jews of Rome in a few sentences of 59 b.c.e., which were reflected in his In Defence of Flaccus, XVIII:

‘The next thing is that charge about the Jewish gold… I will speak in a low voice, just so as to let the judges hear me. For men are not wanting who would be glad to excite those people against me and against every eminent man, and I will not assist them and enable them to do so more easily. As gold, under the pretence of being given to the Jews, was accustomed every year to be exported out of Italy and all the provinces to Jerusalem, Flaccus issued an edict establishing a law that…’

From these phrases, we can deduce that already in the 1st century b.c.e., the Jews had great political power in Rome itself and that they had an important capacity for social mobilization against their political opponents, who lowered their voices out of fear: the pressure of the lobbies.

Thus spake Cicero (brown letters) before the senate. The story of the Flaccus family doesn’t end there. In the masthead we then see what happened to another Flaccus[1] in the section about Caligula: another historical figure maligned by Jews and Christians, including the historian Krauze.

Incidentally, I’m in the final proofreading of the November 2022 edition of On Exterminationism, so I won’t be adding more entries here while I work on it. But I’ll answer any questions I am asked about Krauze, whom I met personally—even shook hands with him in 1993!—when he and Octavio Paz published a book by Cuban dissident Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

________

[1] Aulus Avilius Flaccus was appointed praefectus of Roman Egypt from 33 to 38 c.e.

Categories
Laurent Guyénot Literature New Testament Richard Carrier Romulus St Paul

How Yahweh conquered Rome, 5

by Laurent Guyénot

 

The Jesus question: How fake is the Good News?

I regard Barbiero’s book as a fruitful attempt to solve the mystery of how the Jews created Christianity and made it the Roman religion. But it certainly doesn’t give the full story. Much happened in the next three centuries that needs to be clarified. One important context, which is seldom considered, is the ‘Crisis of the Third Century’ (235-284), during which ‘the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of barbarian invasions and migrations into the Roman territory, civil wars, peasant rebellions, political instability’ (Wikipedia), but also cataclysmic events and widespread diseases such as the Plague of Cyprian (c. 249-262), that was said to kill up to 5,000 people a day in Rome.[22] In such a context, the apocalyptic flavor of early Christianity must have been a key factor of its success. Interestingly, the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, the latest included into the Christian canon, is considered by some scholars to be a Christianized edition of a Jewish apocalypse, because, except for its prologue and epilogue (from 4:1 to 22:15), it contains no recognizable Christian motif.[23]

There are also two important building blocks of Christianity that Barbiero’s focus on Roman Mithraism leaves out: the Gospels’ life of Jesus, and Paul’s mystical Christ. How did they originate, and how were they integrated? The connection between them is one of the most difficult problems concerning the birth of Christianity. For, as Earl Doherty writes in The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ? (1999), a book that has sent a shockwave in Jesus scholarship (here quoted from this 600-page pdf): ‘Not once does Paul or any other first century epistle writer identify their divine Christ Jesus with the recent historical man known from the Gospels. Nor do they attribute the ethical teachings they put forward to such a man.’ Christ is simply for Paul a celestial deity who has endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection, and who communicates to his devotees through dreams, visions and prophecies. Such gnostic Christology has roots in mystery religions long predating Jesus. It is difficult to explain how a human Jesus could be transformed into such a divine Christ in a few decades, during the lifetime of those who knew him.

The first difficulty is that the vast majority of the earliest Christians were, of course, Jews. ‘God is One,’ says the most fundamental of Jewish theological tenets. Moreover, the Jewish mind had an obsession against associating anything human with God. He could not be represented by even the suggestion of a human image, and Jews in their thousands had bared their necks before Pilate’s swords simply to protest against the mounting of military standards bearing Caesar’s image within sight of the Temple. The idea that a man was a literal part of God would have been met by any Jew with horror and apoplexy.

And yet we are to believe that Jews were immediately led to elevate Jesus of Nazareth to divine levels unprecedented in the entire history of human religion. We are to believe not only that they identified a crucified criminal with the ancient God of Abraham, but that they went about the empire and practically overnight converted huge numbers of other Jews to the same outrageous—and thoroughly blasphemous—proposition. Within a handful of years of Jesus’ supposed death, we know of Christian communities in many major cities of the empire, all presumably having accepted that a man they had never met, crucified as a political rebel on a hill outside Jerusalem, had risen from the dead and was in fact the pre-existent Son of God, creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the world. Since many of the Christian communities Paul worked in existed before he got there, and since Paul’s letters do not support the picture Acts paints of intense missionary activity on the part of the Jerusalem group around Peter and James, history does not record who performed this astounding feat.[24]

The simplest way to overcome this difficulty is to assume that the transformation of the human Jesus into the cosmic Christ (or the other way round, as Doherty suggests) didn’t happen spontaneously, but was engineered by connecting several elements, with the aim of fabricating a Judeo-Hellenistic syncretic religion.

Paul’s letters were first collected in the first half of the second century by Marcion of Sinope who also included in his canon a short evangelion (he was the first to use the term), but rejected the Jewish Tanakh. Around 208, Tertullian, a Carthaginian of probable Jewish origin, complained that ‘the heretical tradition of Marcion filled the universe’ (Against Marcion v, 19). He also tells us that, during the time of Marcion, another Gnostic teacher named Valentinus almost became bishop of Rome. In the third century AD appeared the Persian Mani, who called himself ‘apostle of Jesus Christ,’ but rejected any Jewish influence. Manicheans became the label pinned by the Catholic Church on all the Gnostic movements that came from the East, such as the Paulicians from Anatolia in the eighth century, or the Bogomils from Bulgaria in the ninth century, the ancestors of the Cathars who were eradicated from the south of France in the early thirteenth century. All these movements, which can be seen as successive waves of the same movement, venerated Paul and rejected the Torah, whose god they regarded either as an evil demiurge, a deceptive demon, or a malicious fiction.

In the fourth century, Gnostic Christianity was still alive and flourishing. The monastic library of the Egyptian Brotherhood of Saint Pachomius, the first known Christian monastery, contained a great wealth of Gnostic literature (including the Gospel of Thomas), amid Platonic, Hermetic, and Zoroastrian books. As New Testament scholar Robert Price tells in his fascinating book Deconstructing Jesus (2000):

Apparently when the monks received the Easter Letter from Athanasius in 367 C.E., which contains the first known listing of the canonical twenty-seven New Testament books, warning the faithful to read no others, the brethren must have decided to hide their cherished ‘heretical’ gospels, lest they fall into the hands of the ecclesiastical book burners.[25]

All these codices were hidden in a graveyard at Nag Hammadi, where they were discovered in 1945, revolutionizing our image of early Christianity. Scholars have since started to question the traditional view of Gnostics as dissenters who broke away from the Orthodox Church; rather, the Gnostics who never ceased claiming that Roman Catholics were corrupting the Gospel under Jewish influence, may have been right all along.

As I started delving into these questions, I discovered that a new school of New Testament exegesis, pioneered by Earl Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle, claims that Christianity was born in myth, not in history. I had always assumed that Jesus’ biography was too historically plausible to be a fiction. In my thirties, I had become fascinated by the quest for the historical Jesus and wrote a book on the ‘legendary’ relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, which argued that the Gospel writers falsified the genuine prophecies of John, and forged spurious praises of Jesus by John, and that much of the sayings attributed to Jesus (from the hypothetical Q document) were originally attributed to John.[26] Nevertheless, I didn’t doubt the historicity of Jesus. But my recent journey into the ‘Christ Myth’ theory has convinced me that the historical Jesus is more elusive than I thought. The Gospels, for one thing, are not as old as generally admitted (between the 70s and the 90s), for, as Doherty points out:

Only in Justin Martyr, writing in the 150s, do we find the first identifiable quotations from some of the Gospels, though he calls them simply ‘memoirs of the Apostles,’ with no names. And those quotations usually do not agree with the texts of the canonical versions we now have, showing that such documents were still undergoing evolution and revision.[27]

A late second-century date for the first narrative about Jesus is consistent with the hypothesis—that goes contrary to Barbiero’s theory—that Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews originally contained a reference to John the Baptist and one to James the Just, but no reference to Jesus, who was later inserted between the two so that John could be presented as Jesus’ precursor and James as his brother and heir. There is much evidence that James, like John the Baptist before him, was a famous figure in his own right. According to biblical scholar Robert Eisenman, author of James, the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, James is identical to ‘the Teacher of Righteousness’ mentioned in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been dated too early. Strangely,

The person of James is almost diametrically opposed to the Jesus of Scripture and our ordinary understanding of him. Whereas the Jesus of Scripture is anti-nationalist, cosmopolitan, antinomian—that is, against the direct application of Jewish Law—and accepting foreigners and other persons of perceived impurities, the Historical James will turn out to be zealous for the Law, and rejecting of foreigners and polluted persons generally.

His death by stoning in 62 ‘was connected in popular imagination with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE in a way that Jesus’ death some four decades before could not have been.’

Variant manuscripts of the works of Josephus, reported by Church fathers like Origen, Eusebius and Jerome, all of whom at one time or another spent time in Palestine, contain materials associating the fall of Jerusalem with the death of James—not with the death of Jesus. Their shrill protests, particularly Origen’s and Eusebius’, have probably not a little to do with the disappearance of this passage from all manuscripts of the Jewish War that have come down to us.[28]

Jesus scholars of the ‘mythicist’ school—by opposition to ‘historicist’—refrain from expressing their conclusion in conspiratorial terms. In his book On the Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Richard Carrier writes: ‘the Jesus we know originated as a mythical character,’ and only ‘later, this myth was mistaken for history (or deliberately repackaged that way).’ But I find ‘mistaken’ very unlikely, and ‘deliberately repackaged’ much more probable. Carrier actually suggests that the fundamental structure of the narrative was borrowed from a well-established Roman mythical pattern:

In Plutarch’s biography of Romulus, the founder of Rome, we are told he was the son of god, born of a lowly shepherd; then as a man he becomes beloved by the people, hailed as king, and killed by the conniving elite; then he rises from the dead, appears to a friend to tell the good news to his people, and ascends to heaven to rule from on high. Just like Jesus.

Plutarch also tells us about annual public ceremonies that were still being performed, which celebrated the day Romulus ascended to heaven. The sacred story told at this event went basically as follows: at the end of his life, amid rumors he was murdered by a conspiracy of the Senate (just as Jesus was ‘murdered’ by a conspiracy of the Jews—in fact by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish equivalent of the Senate), the sun went dark (just as it did when Jesus died), and Romulus’s body vanished (just as Jesus’ did). The people wanted to search for him but the Senate told them not to, ‘for he had risen to join the gods’ (much as a mysterious young man tells the women in Mark’s Gospel). Most went away happy, hoping for good things from their new god, but ‘some doubted’ (just as all later Gospels say of Jesus: Mt 28.17; Lk 24.11; Jn 20.24-25; even Mk 16.8 implies this). Soon after, Proculus, a close friend of Romulus, reported that he met Romulus ‘on the road’ between Rome and a nearby town and asked him, ‘Why have you abandoned us?’, to which Romulus replied that he had been a god all along but had come down to earth and become incarnate to establish a great kingdom, and now had to return to his home in heaven (pretty much as happens to Cleopas in Lk 24.13-32). Then Romulus told his friend to tell the Romans that if they are virtuous they will have all worldly power.

Livy’s account [History 1.16], just like Mark’s, emphasizes that ‘fear and bereavement’ kept the people ‘silent for a long time’, and only later did they proclaim Romulus ‘God, Son of God, King, and Father’, thus matching Mark’s ‘they said nothing to anyone’, yet obviously assuming that somehow word got out.

It certainly seems as if Mark is fashioning Jesus into the new Romulus, with a new, superior message, establishing a new, superior kingdom. This Romulan tale looks a lot like a skeletal model for the passion narrative: a great man, founder of a great kingdom, despite coming from lowly origins and of suspect parentage, is actually an incarnated son of god, but dies as a result of a conspiracy of the ruling council, then a darkness covers the land at his death and his body vanishes, at which those who followed him flee in fear (just like the Gospel women, Mk 16.8; and men, Mk 14.50-52), and like them, too, we look for his body but are told he is not here, he has risen; and some doubt, but then the risen god ‘appears’ to select followers to deliver his gospel.

There are many differences in the two stories, surely. But the similarities are too numerous to be a coincidence—and the differences are likely deliberate. For instance, Romulus’s material kingdom favoring the mighty is transformed into a spiritual one favoring the humble. It certainly looks like the Christian passion narrative is an intentional transvaluation of the Roman Empire’s ceremony of their own founding savior’s incarnation, death and resurrection. Other elements have been added to the Gospels—the story heavily Judaized, and many other symbols and motifs pulled in to transform it—and the narrative has been modified, in structure and content, to suit the Christians’ own moral and spiritual agenda. But the basic structure is not original.[29]

Other scholars have long identified strong parallels between the life of Jesus and the legendary lives of holy men such as Pythagoras or Appolonius of Tyana. In the later, for example, we find that Appolonius, after a lifetime of doing miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead, was delivered by his enemies to the Roman authorities. ‘Still,’ according to Bart D. Ehrman’s summary, ‘after he left this world, he returned to meet his followers in order to convince them that he was not really dead but lived on in the heavenly realm.’[30]

Robert Price has pointed another likely source for the Gospel narratives: Greek novels such as Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale, Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Clitophon, Heliodorus’ Ethiopian Story, Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe, The Story of Apollonius, King of Tyre, Iamblichus’ Babylonian Story, and Petronius’ Satyricon.

Three major plot devices recur like clockwork in the ancient novels, which were usually about the adventures of star-crossed lovers, somewhat like modern soap operas. First, the heroine, a princess, collapses into a coma and is taken for dead. Prematurely buried, she awakens later in the darkness of the tomb. Ironically, she is discovered in the nick of time by grave robbers who have broken into the opulent mausoleum, looking for rich funerary tokens […]. The crooks save her life but also kidnap her, since they can’t afford to leave a witness behind. When her fiancé or husband comes to the tomb to mourn, he is stunned to find the tomb empty and first guesses that his beloved has been taken up to heaven because the gods envied her beauty. In one tale, the man sees the shroud left behind, just as in John 20:6-7.

The second stock plot device is that the hero, finally realizing what has happened, goes in search of the heroine and eventually runs afoul of a governor or king who wants her and, to get him out of the way, has the hero crucified. Of course, the hero always manages to get a last-minute pardon, even once affixed to the cross, or he survives crucifixion by some stroke of luck. Sometimes the heroine, too, appears to have been killed but winds up alive after all.

Third, we eventually have a joyous reunion of the two lovers, each of whom has despaired of ever seeing the other again. They at first cannot believe they are not seeing a ghost come to comfort them. Finally, disbelieving for joy, they are convinced that their loved one has survived in the flesh.

As I have noted in my article ‘The Crucifixion of the Goddess,’ the love romance pattern is still apparent in the Gospel, where the risen Jesus appears first to his longtime follower Mary Magdalene, who, perhaps for that reason, was regarded as Jesus’ soul mate by many Gnostics.[31]

Price quotes the following passage from Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, where Chaereas discovers the empty tomb of his beloved:

When he reached the tomb, he found that the stones had been moved and the entrance was open. [Cf. John 20:1] He was astonished at the sight and overcome by fearful perplexity at what had happened. [Cf. Mark 16:5] Rumor—a swift messenger—told the Syracusans this amazing news. They all quickly crowded round the tomb, but no one dared go inside until Hermocrates gave an order to do so. [Cf. John 20:4-6] The man who went in reported the whole situation accurately. [Cf. John 19:35; 21:24] It seemed incredible that even the corpse was not lying there. Then Chaereas himself determined to go in, in his desire to see Callirhoe again even dead; but though he hunted through the tomb, he could find nothing. Many people could not believe it and went in after him. They were all seized by helplessness. One of those standing there said, ‘The funeral offerings have been carried off [Cartlidge’s translation reads: ‘The shroud has been stripped off’—cf. John 20:6-7]—it is tomb robbers who have done that; but what about the corpse—where is it?’ Many different suggestions circulated in the crowd. Chaereas looked towards the heavens, stretched up his arms, and cried: ‘Which of the gods is it, then, who has become my rival in love and carried off Callirhoe and is now keeping her with him…?’

Later on, Callirhoe, reflecting on her vicissitudes, says, ‘I have died and come to life again.’ Later still, she laments, ‘I have died and been buried; I have been stolen from my tomb.’ In the meantime, poor Chaereas is condemned to the cross, which he has to carry himself. But in the last minute, just before being nailed, his sentence is commuted, and he is taken down from the cross. Here, then, comments Price, is a hero who went to the cross for his beloved and returned alive. In the same story, a villain is likewise crucified, though since he is gaining his just deserts, he is not reprieved. This is Theron, the pirate who carried poor Callirhoe into slavery. He was crucified in front of Callirhoe’s tomb.

Did some Jews, by some concerted and persistent Hasbara, brainwash the Romans with an unbelievable Jewish tale plagiarized from Greek novels, Roman myths, and Mithraic cult? Surely there are other ways to look at Christianity than as a Jewish trick. But I find the hypothesis worth considering. I hear on this webzine [Editor's Note: The Unz Review] a lot of complaint against Jewish cultural colonization. I am merely suggesting that it didn’t start yesterday.

________________

[22] Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, Princeton UP, 2017.

[23] See for example James Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism, SPCK, 1989.

[24] Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Was There no Historical Jesus? on this 600-page pdf, pp. 33 and 16.

[25] Robert Price, Deconstructing Jesus, Prometheus Book, 2000, archive.org, pp. 44-45.

[26] Recent scholars arguing along those lines include Karl H. Kraeling, John the Baptist, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951; Charles H. H. Scobie, John the Baptist, Fortress Press, 1964; W. Barnes Tatum, John the Baptist and Jesus: A Report of the Jesus Seminar, Polebridge Press, 1994; Joan Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism, Wm B. Eerdmans, 1996; Robert L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study, Sheffield Academic Press, 1991; Walter Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition, Cambridge UP, 1968.

[27] Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle, op. cit., p. 52 .

[28] Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Viking Penguin, 1996.

[29] Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014, p. 56.

[30] Bart D. Ehrman Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, HarperCollins, USA. 2012, p. 208, quoted from Wikipedia.

[31] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979.

Categories
Julian (novel) Literature

Julian, 58

– IX –

Julian Augustus

It was mid-October when I arrived in Milan. The weather was dry and the air so clear that one could see with perfect clarity those blue alps which separate civilization from barbarism, our world of sun from that melancholy green forest where dwells Rome’s nemesis.

Just before the city’s gate we were met by one of Constantius’s eunuchs, a gorgeous fellow with many chins and an effortless sneer. He did not salute me as is proper, a bad omen. He gave the commander of my guard a letter from the Emperor. When I saw this, I began to recite the first of the passwords I should need when I arrived in the kingdom of the dead. But I was not to be dispatched just yet. Instead I was taken to a house in one of the suburbs. Here I was imprisoned.

Imprisonment exactly describes my state. I was under heavy guard. During the day, I was allowed to stroll in the atrium. But at night I was locked in my bedroom. No one could visit me, not that there was anyone in Milan I wanted to see or who wanted to see me, excepting the Empress Eusebia. Of my household, I was allowed to keep only two boys and two men. The rest were transferred to the imperial palace. There was no one I could talk to. That was the greatest hardship of all. I should have been pleased to have had even a eunuch for company!

Why was I treated this way? I have since pieced the story together. While I was in Athens, a general named Silvanus was proclaimed Augustus in Gaul. I am convinced that at heart he was innocent of any serious desire to take the purple, but the enmity of the court eunuchs drove him to rebellion.

As soon as this happened, Constantius arrested me because he was afraid that I might take advantage of the defection of Gaul to rise against him in Attica. As it turned out, before I reached Milan, Silvanus was dead at Cologne. Constantius’ luck in civil war had proved itself again.

But the death of Silvanus did not solve the problem of Julian. While I was locked up in that suburban villa, the old debate was reopened. Eusebius wanted me put to death. Eusebia did not. Constantius kept his own counsel.

I prepared several letters to Eusebia, begging her to intercede with the Emperor that I might be allowed to return to Athens. But I finally decided not to send her any message, for Constantius’s suspicions were easily aroused, to say the least, and any exchange between his wife and his heir presumptive would not only be known to him but would doubtless turn him against both of us. I did the wise thing.

At dawn, on the thirteenth day of my captivity, my life altered forever. I was awakened by a slave banging on the bedroom door. “Get up, Lord! Get up! A message from the Augustus!” Fully clothed, I leapt out of bed. I then reminded the slave that until someone unlocked the door I could hardly receive the imperial messenger.

The door flew open. The commander of my guard was beaming. I knew then that the divine will had begun its work. I was to be spared.

“A messenger, sir. The Emperor will receive you tonight.” I stepped into the atrium and got my first taste of what it is like to be in favour. The house was now full of strangers. Fat eunuchs in gaudy silk; clerks from various government offices; tailors; sandalmakers; barbers; youthful officers drawn to what might be a new sun and source of honour. It was dizzying.

The messenger from Constantius was no other than Arintheus, who serves with me now in Persia. He is remarkably beautiful, and the army loves him in that fervent way armies have of loving handsome officers. He is auburn-haired and blue-eyed, with a strong, supple body. He is completely uneducated, but brave and shrewd in warfare. His only vice is an excessive fondness for boys, a practice I usually find unseemly in generals. But the men are amused by his sensuality. Also, he is a cavalry man and among cavalry men pederasty is a tradition. I must say that day when Arintheus approached me, blue eyes flashing and ruddy face grinning, I nearly mistook him for Hermes himself, streaming glory from Olympus as he came to save his unworthy son. Arintheus saluted me briskly; then he read aloud the letter summoning me for audience. When he had finished reading (with some difficulty, for he has never found reading easy), he put the message away, gave me his most winning smile and said, “When you are Caesar, don’t forget me. Take me with you. I prefer action.” He patted his sword hilt. I dithered like a fool. He departed.

Then began a new struggle. My beard would have to go, also my student’s clothes. I was now a prince, not a philosopher. So for the first time in my life my beard was shaved. It was like losing an arm. Two barbers worked on me while I sat in a chair in the centre of the atrium as the morning sun shone on a spectacle which, looking back, was perfectly ludicrous. There was I, an awkward twenty-three-year-old philosophy student, late of the University of Athens, being turned into a courtier.

A slave girl trimmed my toenails and scrubbed my feet, to my embarrassment. Another worked on my hands, exclaiming at the inkiness of my fingers. The barber who shaved my beard also tried to shave my chest but I stopped him with an oath. We compromised by letting him trim the hair in my nostrils. When he was finished, he brought me a mirror. I was quite unable to recognize the youth who stared wide-eyed from the polished metal—and it was a youth, not a man as I had thought, for the beard had been deceptive, giving me an undeserved look of wisdom and age. Without it, I resembled any other youngster at court.

I was then bathed, oiled, perfumed and elaborately dressed. My flesh shrank from the lascivious touch of silk, which makes the body uncomfortably aware of itself. Today I never wear silk, preferring coarse linen or wool.

I have only a vague memory of the rest of that day. I was carried to the palace through crowded streets. The people stared at me curiously, uncertain whether or not it was right to applaud. I looked straight ahead as I had been instructed to do when on view. I tried not to hear conversations in the street. Desperately I tried to recall the eunuch’s instructions.

At the edge of the city’s main square the palace, grey and forbidding behind its Corinthian colonnade, rose before me like fate itself. Troops were drawn up in full dress on either side of the main door. When I stepped out of the litter, they saluted.

Several hundreds of the people of Milan drew close to examine me. In every city there is a special class whose only apparent function is to gather in public places and look at famous men. They are neither friendly nor unfriendly, merely interested. An elephant would have pleased them most, but since there was no elephant, the mysterious Prince Julian would have to do. Few of them could identify me. None was certain just what relation I was to the Emperor. It is amazing how little we are known to our subjects. I know of places on the boundaries of the empire where they believe Augustus himself still reigns, that he is a great magician who may not die. Of course, the fact each of us calls himself Augustus is a deliberate attempt to suggest that the continuity of power emanating from Rome is the one constant in a world of flux. Yet even in the cities where there is widespread literacy, the average citizen is often uncertain about who the ruler is. Several times already I have been addressed as Constantius by nervous delegations, while one old man actually thought I was Constantine and complimented me on how little I had changed since the battle at the Mulvian bridge!

Inside the palace, curiosity was mingled with excitement and anticipation. I was in favour. I read my good fortune in every face. In the vestibule they paid me homage. Heads bobbed; smiles flashed; my hand was wrung with warmth, kissed with hope. It was disgusting… in retrospect. At the time, it was marvellous proof that I was to live for a while longer.

I was delivered to the Master of the Offices, who gave me a final whispered briefing. Then, to the noise of horns, I entered the throne room.

Categories
Athens Julian (novel) Literature

Julian, 57

Julian Augustus

Those marvellous days in Athens came to an abrupt end when an imperial messenger arrived with orders that I attend Constantius at Milan. No reason was given. I assumed that I was to be executed. Just such a message had been delivered to Gallus. I confess now to a moment of weakness. Walking alone in the agora, I considered flight. Should I disappear in the back streets of Athens? Change my name? Shave my head? Or should I take to the road like a New Cynic and walk to Pergamon or Nicomedia and lose myself among students, hide until I was forgotten, assumed dead, no longer dangerous?

Suddenly I opened my arms to Athena. I looked up to her statue on the acropolis, much to the astonishment of the passers-by (this took place in front of the Library of Pantainos).

I prayed that I be allowed to remain in Athena’s city, preferring death on the spot to departure. But the goddess did not answer. Sadly I dropped my arms. Just at that moment, Gregory emerged from the library and approached me with his wolf’s grin.

“You’re leaving us,” he said. There are no secrets in Athens. I told him that I was reluctant to go but the Emperor’s will must be done.

“You’ll be back,” he said, taking my arm familiarly.

“I hope so.”

“And you’ll be the Caesar then, a man of state, with a diadem and guards and courtiers! It will be interesting to see just how our Julian changes when he is set over us like a god.”

“I shall be the same,” I promised, sure of death.

“Remember old friends in your hour of greatness.” A scroll hidden in Gregory’s belt dropped to the pavement. Blushing, he picked it up.

“I have a special permit,” he stammered. “I can withdraw books, certain books, approved books…”

I laughed at his embarrassment. He knew that I knew that the Pantainos Library never allows any book to be taken from the reading room. I said I would tell no one.

The proconsul treated me decently. He was a good man, but frightened. I recognized at once in his face the look of the official who does not know if one is about to be executed or raised to the throne. It must be cruelly perplexing for such men. If they are kind, they are then vulnerable to a later charge of conspiracy; if they are harsh, they may live to find their victim great and vindictive. The proconsul steered a middle course; he was correct; he was conscientious; he arranged for my departure the next morning.

My last evening in Athens is still too painful to describe. I spent it with Macrina. I vowed to return if I could. Next day, at first light, I left the city. I did not trust myself to look back at Athena’s temple floating in air, or at the sun-struck violet line of Hymettos. Eyes to the east and the morning sun, I made the sad journey to Piraeus and the sea.

Categories
Julian (novel) Literature

Julian, 56

Frederic Leighton, The Return of Persephone (1891).

Editor’s note: In Greek mythology, Persephone was the Queen of the underworld, the young maiden, and a daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Her story had great emotional power in the Ancient World: an innocent maiden, a mother’s grief over her abduction, and great joy after her daughter is returned.

Vidal’s novel recreates how Julian became initiated in such mysteries at Eleusis.

______ 卐 ______

The next three days were beyond imagination. I was admitted to all of the mysteries, including the final and most secret. I saw that which is enacted, that which is shown and that which is spoken. I saw the passion of Demeter, the descent of Persephone to the underworld, the giving of grain to man. I saw the world as it is and the world that is to come. I lost my fear of death in the Telestrion when, in a blaze of light, I looked upon the sacred objects. It was true.

More than this I cannot write. It is forbidden to reveal anything that one sees and hears during the two nights spent in the Telestrion. But I will make one general comment, a dissent from Aristotle, who wrote: “The initiated do not learn anything so much as feel certain emotions and are put into a certain frame of mind.” First of all, one must question the proposition that a new emotion is not something learned. I should think that it was.

In any case, I have yet to meet anyone who has been initiated at Eleusis who did not learn new things not only about the life we live now but the one to follow. There is such a logic to what is revealed on those two nights that one is astonished not to have understood it before—which proves to me the truth of what is seen, heard and demonstrated. We are part of a never-ending cycle, a luminous spiral of life, lost and regained, of death to life to… but now I begin to tell too much.

Priscus: He tells altogether too much. But that was his charm, except when he goes on altogether too long and becomes tedious. I know that you were initiated at Eleusis and doubtless feel much as he did about what is revealed there. I don’t. It is possible that if I had gone through all the nonsense of initiation, I might have had a “revelation”. But I doubt it. There are some natures too coarse to apprehend the mysteries. Mine is one. Nowadays of course we can write with a certain freedom of the mysteries since they are drawing to an end. The Emperor is expected to shut down the Telestrion as soon as he feels the time is politically fight. Naturally, the bishops lust for the destruction of Eleusis, which to me is the only argument for preserving it.

I am cool to the mysteries because I find them vague and full of unjustified hope. I do not want to be nothing next year or next minute or whenever this long life of mine comes to its end (of course it does not seem at all long to me, not long enough by half!). Yet I suspect that “nothing” is my fate. Should it be otherwise, what can I do about it? To believe as poor Julian did that he was among the elect as a result of a nine-day ceremony, costing some fifteen drachmae, not counting extras, is to fall into the same nonsense we accuse the Christians of when we blame their bitter exclusivity and lunatic superstition.

I had no idea Macrina was so sensible until I read Julian’s account of their conversation at Eleusis. She might have made him a good wife. I had always assumed she only told him what he wanted to hear, like any other woman. She was rare, in her way; but not to my taste.

The remainder of Julian’s stay in Athens was uneventful. He was personally popular. The Sophists all tried to curry favour with him. It is remarkable how men supposedly dedicated to philosophy and things of the mind are drawn to power; affecting scorn for the mighty, they are inevitably attracted to those who rule. When the powerful man is as amiable and philosophy-loving as Julian, the resulting attempt to capture him is all the more unseemly.

Libanius: How typical of Priscus! He can hardly restrain his jealousy of me, and his resentment of my influence over Julian. Yet my interest in Julian was not self-seeking. How could it be? When I turned down the title of praetorian prefect, I said that the title Sophist was good enough for me. My gesture is still much remembered not only here in Antioch but everywhere philosophy is valued. Those of us who wish to lead others to wisdom respond to any questioning soul, prince or beggar.

Sometimes, as in the case of Maximus, Julian showed bad judgment, but by and large he cultivated the best minds of our era. I also find Priscus’s remarks about Eleusis distasteful, even atheistic. Cicero, who was hardly superstitious, wrote that if all else Athens had brought the world was swept away, the mysteries alone would be enough to place mankind for ever in Athens’ debt. Priscus has got worse with age. Envy festers. He was never a true philosopher. I find myself pitying him as I read his bitter commentary.

Priscus: In any case, when Julian looked with adoration at that sheaf of wheat which is revealed with such solemnity at the highest moment of the ceremony…

Libanius: This is absolute blasphemy! These things must not be revealed. Priscus will suffer for this in the next world, while who ever betrayed to him our high secret will sink for ever in dung. It is appalling!

Priscus:… he felt duly elated, believing that as the corn withers, dies and is reborn, so it is with us. But is the analogy correct? I would say no. For one thing, it is not the same sheaf of wheat that grows from the seed. It is a new sheaf of wheat, which would suggest that our immortality, such as it is, is between our legs. Our seed does indeed make a new man but he is not us. The son is not the father. The father is put in the ground and that is the end of him. The son is a different man who will one day make yet another man and so on—perhaps for ever—yet the individual consciousness stops.

Libanius: I hate Priscus! He is worse than a Christian. Homer believed. Was Homer wrong? Of course not.

Priscus: Julian did nothing to offend the Christians in Athens, though it was fairly well known that he tended towards philosophy. But he was discreet. On at least one occasion he attended church.

The Hierophant liked him but thought he was doomed, or so he told me years later. The Hierophant was an interesting man. But of course you knew him for you were admitted to the mysteries during his reign. He realized with extraordinary clarity that our old world was ended. There were times, I think, when he took pleasure in knowing he was the last of a line that extended back two thousand years. Men are odd. If they cannot be first, they don’t in the least mind being last.

Categories
Eleusis Julian (novel) Literature

Julian, 55

During the weeks that followed, we saw each other every day. Yet I came to know the Hierophant no better. On any subject not connected with the mysteries, he refused to speak. I gave up talking to him, accepting him as what he was: a palpable link with the holy past but not a human companion.

I need not describe the celebrations which precede the initiation, since they are known to everyone. Though I may not describe the mysteries themselves, I can say that in this particular year more people took part in the festivities than usual, to the chagrin of the Galileans.

The whole business takes nine days. The first day was hot and enervating. The proclamation was made and the sacred objects brought from Eleusis to the Eleusinion, a small temple at the foot of the acropolis where—among other interesting things—there is a complete list of Alcibiades’ personal property, seized when he profaned the mysteries one drunken night by imitating on a street corner the Hierophant’s secret rites. The sacred objects are contained in several jars tied with red ribbons. They are put in the Eleusinion, to be returned to Eleusis during the main procession, which is on the fifth day.

On the second day, we bathed in the sea and washed the pig each of us had bought for sacrifice. I chose the beach at Phaleron, and nearly lost the pig I had bought for six drachmae. It is an amazing sight to watch several thousand people bathing in the sea, each with a squealing pig.

The third day is one of sacrifice, and a long night.

The fourth day is sacred to Asklepios; one stays at home. On the fifth day the procession starts from the Dipylon Gate to Eleusis.

It was a lovely sight. An image of the god Iacchos, son of Demeter, is borne in a wooden carriage at the procession’s head. This part of the ceremony is sacred to him. Though all are supposed to walk to Eleusis, most of the well-to-do are carried in litters. I walked. My bodyguards complained, but I was exalted. I was crowned with myrtle and I carried not only the sacred branches tied with wool but also, according to tradition, new clothes in a bundle on a stick over my shoulder. Macrina accompanied me.

The day was cloudy, which made the journey pleasanter than it usually is at that time of the year. All told, there were perhaps a thousand of us in the procession, not counting the curious, which included a number of Galileans who shouted atheist curses at us.

On the outskirts of Athens, just off the main road, Macrina pointed to a complex of old buildings. “That is the most famous brothel in Greece,” she said with her usual delight in such things. “The shrine of Aphrodite.” Apparently, people come from all over the world to visit the shrine, where for a price they enjoy the “priestesses”. They pretend it is religion. Actually, it is mass prostitution. I could not disapprove more.

Just beyond the shrine there is an old bridge. Here the ordeal begins. On the bridge’s parapet sit men with faces covered by hoods. It is their traditional function to remind important people of their faults and to condemn their pride. I consoled myself by remembering that Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius had preceded me on this bridge. If they had survived humiliation, so could I.

“It won’t be bad.” Macrina tried to be reassuring. “They’re much too frightened of Constantius.” But I recalled how Hadrian had been jeered for his love of Antinoüs, and Hadrian was a reigning emperor, not mere cousin to one. I was sweating as we reached the bridge. All eyes were upon me. The hooded men—at least thirty of them—had just finished tormenting a local magistrate. They turned now to me. Macrina held my arm tight. Heart beating fast and eyes cast down, I walked slowly over the bridge. The jeering and curses were formidable. At first I tried not to listen, but then I recalled that this humiliation is an essential part of the mysteries: to rid oneself of pride. I listened. I was accused mostly of falseness and pretension. I was not a true scholar. I was a poseur.I looked like a goat. I was a coward and afraid to serve in the army (this was unexpected). I hated the Galileans. This made me nervous indeed but happily, it was said only once. After all, my tormentors were of the true religion and not apt to hold my dislike of the Galileans against me.

Finally, the bridge was crossed. The ordeal ended. Feeling purged and relieved (the worst is never so bad as one fears), I walked the rest of the way to Eleusis, with Macrina grumbling at my side. I’m afraid she taunted me quite as much as the men on the bridge. But as I drew closer to the mysteries, I was filled with such a sense of expectancy that nothing could disturb my mood.

It was night when we arrived at Eleusis. The city is a small one on the Saronic Gulf, with a view of the island of Salamis. Like most cities whose principal source of revenue is strangers, Eleusis is full of inns and cookshops and tradesmen eager to sell copies of sacred objects at ridiculously high prices. It is a wonder that any place remains sacred, considering the inevitable presence of those whose livelihood depends on cheating strangers. I am told that Delphi is even worse than Eleusis; while Jerusalem—which is of course “sacred” to the Galileans—is now a most distressing place to visit.

Torches blazed in every street of the town. Night was like day. Innkeepers solicited us, and at every street corner, men told of places to eat. Even vice was proposed, which shows how debased the local population is, for they should know better than anyone that during the pilgrims’ three days in Eleusis, they must fast, remain continent, and touch neither the body of one dead nor that of a woman who has just given birth; eggs and beans are also forbidden us, even after the first day’s fast.

Macrina and I followed the crowd to where the mysteries are enacted. Homer has described how the original temple was at the foot of the acropolis, in much the same spot as the present temple, or Telestrion, as it is called. This night everything was illuminated in honour of the Great Mysteries.

The entrance to the sacred enclosure is through a gate, even more noble than the Dipylon at Athens. We entered, passing through a roped-off section where guards and priests made sure that we were indeed initiates, remarkable by our dress and certain signs. The gate is so cunningly arranged that anyone looking through can see no more than a few yards of the sacred way; any further view of the Telestrion is broken by the large blank wall of the Ploutonion, a temple built over the original passage to Hades from which Persephone appeared.

Eyes smarting from torch smoke, Macrina and I ascended the sacred way, pausing first at the Kallichoros Well. I was overcome with awe, for this is the same well described by Homer. It is old beyond memory. It was here in the time when the gods walked the earth that the women of Eleusis danced in honour of Demeter.

Roman copy of Demeter after a Greek original from the
4th century BC. Compare it with the Roman mudblood kid
already at the beginning of the Christian Era in my previous post.

The opening of the well is several steps below the main terrace, and faced with magnificent marble. Near it stands a large basin containing sacred water. I bathed my hands and began to know Demeter and her grief. I was so moved that I almost neglected to pay the priestess the one drachma for the experience.

Next we entered the Ploutonion, which is set in a rocky hollow of the acropolis. The elmwood doors were shut to us, but the altar outside, cut in living rock, was illuminated.

Finally we came to the long stoa of Philon, which fronts the Telestrion. Beyond this blue-paved portico the blank façade of the holiest building on earth is set against the acropolis, which provides its fourth wall. There are greater and more splendid temples in the world, but there is none which quite inspires one’s reverence in the way the Telestrion does, for it has been holy since almost the first day of man, a creation of that beautiful lost world when the gods, not beleaguered, lived among us, and earth was simple and men good.

Since we were not yet initiates, we could not enter the Telestrion. At this point we were joined by two priests who led us to the house where the Eumolpidae have lived for a thousand years. We were to spend the night there. The Hierophant, however, did not join us. On this night of nights, he fasted and meditated.

Macrina and I sat up until dawn. “You must be admitted to the mysteries.” I scolded her, as I had done before.

But she was perverse. “How can I? I’m not one thing or the other. I don’t like the Christians because they are cruel. I don’t like the mysteries and all the rest because I don’t believe anything can help us when we are dead. Either we continue in some way, or we stop. But no matter what happens, it is beyond our control and there is no way of making a bargain with the gods. Consider the Christians, who believe there is a single god…”

“In three parts!”

“Well, yours is in a thousand bits. Anyway, if by some chance the Christians areright, then all this”—she gestured towards the Telestrion—“is wrong, and you will go to their hell rather than to your Elysium.”

“But the Galileans arewrong.”

“Who can say?”

“Homer. Thousands of years of the true faith. Are we to believe there was no god until the appearance of a rabble-rousing carpenter three hundred years ago? It is beyond sense to think that the greatest age of man was godless.”

“You must argue with the Twins,” said Macrina; then we spoke of matters which I shall not record.

Categories
Eleusis Julian (novel) Literature

Julian, 54

The Temple of Demeterby Joseph Gandy (1818). It gives us an idea
of the site at Eleusis that the Christians would destroy after Julian.

 
The Hierophant entered the reading room. He is a short plump man, not in the least impressive to look at. He saluted me gravely. His voice is powerful and he speaks old Greek exactly the way it was spoken two thousand years ago, for in the long descent of his family the same words have been repeated in exactly the same way from generation to generation. It is awesome to think that Homer heard what we still hear.

“I have been busy. I am sorry. But this is the sacred month. The mysteries begin in a week.” So he began, prosaically.

I told him that I wished to be initiated into all the mysteries: the lesser, the greater, and the highest. I realized that this would be difficult to arrange on such short notice, but I had not much time.

“It can be done, of course. But you will need to study hard. Have you a good memory?”

I said that I still retained most of Homer. He reminded me that the mysteries last for nine days and that there are many passwords, hymns and prayers which must be learned before the highest mystery can be revealed. “You must not falter.” The Hierophant was stern. I said that I thought I could learn what I needed to know in a week, for I do indeed have a good memory; at least it is good when properly inspired.

I was candid. I told him that if I lived, it was my hope to support Hellenism in its war with the Galileans.

He was abrupt. “It is too late,” he said, echoing Prohaeresius. “Nothing you can do will change what is about to happen.”

I had not expected such a response. “Do you know the future?”

“I am Hierophant,” he said simply. “The last Hierophant of Greece. I know many things, all tragic.”

I refused to accept this. “But how can you be the last? Why, for centuries…”

“Prince, these things are written at the beginning. No one may tamper with fate. When I die, I shall be succeeded not by a member of our family but by a priest from another sect. He will be in name, but not in fact, the final Hierophant. Then the temple at Eleusis will be destroyed—all the temples in all of Greece will be destroyed. The barbarians will come. The Christians will prevail. Darkness will fall.”

“For ever?”

“Who can say? The goddess has shown me no more than what I have told you. With me, the true line ends. With the next Hierophant, the mysteries themselves will end.”

“I cannot believe it!”

“That alters nothing.”

“But if I were to become Emperor…”

“It would make no difference.”

“Then obviously, I shall not become Emperor.”

I smiled at this subtlety, for we had got around the law forbidding prophecy.

“Whether you are Emperor or not, Eleusis will be in ruins before the century is done.”

I looked at him closely. We were sitting on a long bench beneath a high latticed window. Lozenges of light superimposed their own designs upon the tiled floor at our feet. Despite his terrible conviction, this small fat man with his protuberant eyes and fat hands was perfectly composed. I have never known such self-containment, even in Constantius.

“I refuse to believe,” I said at last, “that there is nothing we can do.”

He shrugged. “We shall go on as long as we can, as we always have.” He looked at me solemnly. “You must remember that because the mysteries come to an end makes them no less true. Those who were initiated will at least be fortunate in the underworld. Of course one pities those who come after us. But what is to be must be.”

He rose with dignity, his small plump body held tightly erect, as though by will he might stiffen the soft flesh. “I shall instruct you myself. We shall need several hours a day. Come to my house tonight.” With a small bow he withdrew.