of The Jesus Mysteries: Was the 'Original Jesus' a Pagan God?
by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy
Thorsons/Harper Collins: Hammersmith, London. 1999.
Reviewed by Sig Lonegren & A Clarification by Peter Gandy
I have long considered myself a gnostic. I will listen to everyone I can, but ultimately, I will decide for myself. To do this, I use a process I call 'gnowing,' consciously using equally both my rational and my intuitive abilities to find what is Truth - for me. It was this attitude that got the early Christian Gnostics in trouble with Rome where only one man, the Pope, got to speak with God. In April, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening of a new book, The Jesus Mysteries, by Tim Freke (who lives in Glastonbury) and Peter Gandy. Over the years, I have immersed myself in the history, mythology, and spiritual activities of the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Cannanites, Hebrews, and Greeks. I've studied Mithras, Marduk and Ishtar, Dionysus, Isis and Osirus, Astara and Bel, Jesus and Mary, and the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Documents - a major collection of Christian Gnostic material with pieces from Plato, Hermes Trismegistus, and numerous books about Jesus that didn't make it in to the final cut of books that were accepted as the New Testament at the Council of Nicea.
High Priestess/Mother&Lover/Consort/Son Who Dies and Comes Back
These archetypal truths were passed on through direct experience in the Mystery Schools. Freke and Gandy didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, but they put these bits of information together in a way I certainly had never thought of, and just might be true. Their assertion is that Jesus wasn't really here in the flesh. He was/is an archetypal spirit who Initiates had been taught to see for several thousand of years before the time of the Roman occupation of Israel. This archetype falls into the High Priestess and her lover/consort/son mythos, and it was found all over from the eastern half of the Mediterranean to the Tigris Euphrates. The authors first discuss these Mystery gods and then point out the incredible similarities between their mythic stories and the life of Jesus as reported in the Gospels. They report thirty similarities from Mithras' birthday, the 25th of December, and his followers interest in his blood, through Christ's healing the sick, **exorcising of demons and other miracles and Jesus is baptized (a ritual practiced for centuries in the Mysteries) to his death and resurrection which Osiris and Dionysus and many other earlier mythological deities followed.
Then the authors say that the Romans were well known for their record keeping; however, aside from what is found in the Bible, there is no contemporary evidence that a man named Jesus lived and did the things said about him in the kerygma, the earliest message of Jesus. Zero external evidence!
Who Actually Saw Him?
On top of that, it is now clear that not one of the authors of any of the books in the New Testament actually saw Jesus, Mark was written at least after 65 CE, and most came well into the next century. Many of them were been (badly) rewritten and added to in some cases, centuries after they had been initially written. The Christian Gnostics, painted by the Church to be a small band of early heretics, were actually the dominant arm of the early Church. One of the reasons why they didn't play very well in Rome, as I said above, was that they took responsibility for their perception of Truth, rather than taking on faith what Rome told them.
But I remember something else I learned about the Gnostics in the late seventies, but it didn't come in to focus for me until this book: the gnostics claimed that Christ was never here in the flesh! So instead of a flesh and bones Jesus, someone, or a group of people, had a direct experience of this archetypal reality. And they taught others how to see it, and the message was passed on into an environment that was politically and culturally ready to hear it. It is in this section - where did it begin? - that I feel Freke and Gandy are at their weakest. They point to Philo and Alexandrian Egypt as the source, and while that is perfectly possible, you don't have to go that far. In the Old Testament there are numerous winges by the Patriarchs about how their women were off whoring after Astarte/Ashera. She was the Caananite High Priestess with her lover/consort Bel. The Hebrew people were well in to this concept, and this could be a very possible source of this non-incarnated Jesus story. Also, the authors don't really mention the Dead Sea Scrolls. In their Index under this topic, it says, see Nag Hammadi texts. ! I wouldn't equate these two myself, and it seems to me that one could rather easily build a scenario where this group of spiritual ascetics could well have found ways of contacting the numinous directly.
So, Who Done It?
Despite this area of weakness, Freke and Gandy present a compelling argument for their Jesus-wasn't-here-in-the-flesh hypothesis from the earlier myths to the firm take over of the Church in Rome. On my list, it is a must read. So What?So what does it mean to anyone today if some guy didn't really live two thousand years ago? It has to do with faith. I've never been comfortable with this concept. I know there are various meanings of this word, but it's the one that goes, Heaven is like this, God is like that, and what I say is Truth for everyone - take it on faith my son. !! No thank you. I have been gifted in my lifetime with a momentary awareness of my Creator. I gnow S/He is real. I don't have to take that on faith, but I gnow it through direct experience. And there might well have been a group of people several thousand years ago who had similar direct experiences of this archetypal energy, and spoke about it as real. Their successors lost the skill of the inner mysteries and clung on to the factual historical Jesus. And that experience is available to us - especially when the place that the contact is being made is geomantically enhanced. Spiritual experiences are available to us today - especially in sacred space.
This High Priestess & Lover/Consort/son archetype, this Osirus-Dionysus story is an Indo-European story. There was a time before - when Goddess reigned supreme; however, this myth comes from the time when there was an interface between the older Matrifocal times and the new Patriarchy. The woman was still a high priestess. Only one woman gets to be that in the Church today. This was a Patriarchal story of the man/God. Not of Goddess. I want both. I need a new archetype that incorporates both Goddess and God. While The Jesus Mysteries doesn't give me this (although the concluding chapter certainly does point in that direction), it does confirm that the initial wonderful impulse of the energy that we know as Christ truly came from the spiritual realms, AND, while there has been an ongoing attempt to deny us this connection, as so many early Christian Gnostics did back then, we can also perceive these realms for ourselves today. This book is a must read both for Christians who need to know what actually might have happened, and also for those of us who seek the New Magic.
I had the good fortune to meet Tim Freke & Peter Gandy at the opening of their book here in Glastonbury at the Growing Needs book store, and have corresponded with both of them by email. I sent them a copy of the above review, and Peter responded with the material below. I can only marvel at the detective work they have done.
Peter Gandy's Response: