Mark Booth, Secret History Includes Angels and Demons |396|

#21
Greetings to all. As a practicing Sufi Muslim for more than 40 years, I would take exception to the point that Mark Booth made about Jesus being the only figure to open the path of the interior. Islamic mystical literature is a vast ocean virtually unknown in the West, beside a few generally (usually poorly understood) poems of Rumi. I’m closer to Joe Atwill’s understanding of Jesus. My own spiritual master used to say that,”Jesus is/was not an historical character. The only place his position becomes clear is in the Quran!” I believe that Jesus existed, and that people may have a genuine spiritual encounter with that reality, but what was perpetrated in his name by the Romans and others who came after him has only served to obscure the authentic teachings. There is, in fact, a prophetic tradition, attributed to Muhammad, peace be upon him, to the effect that this effacing of the foundational teachings is the fate of EVERY religious nation. And he didn’t exclude his own followers, by the way!
Hmm. The Quran's provenance is every bit, if not more, dubious than the Gospels. The latter at least make sense and can be read as narratives, and it doesn't require a vast array of all-too-human literature generated as much as a couple of hundred years after the putative life of Muhammad to understand them.

Broadly speaking, the Medinan verses come first and the Meccan verses second (the opposite of the chronological order, putatively, they should be in); they are assembled roughly from longest to shortest in length rather than in narrative order. Their source seems to include a mishmash of new/old testament and Talmudic stories. Without the sirah (biography) of Muhammad and hadith [chains of traditions about him supposedly passed on by reliable people], it would be very difficult to make any sense out of the Quran; I know I can't, and since I have no faith in the sirah or hadith, I can only look at the Quran and wonder how it came to be so exalted.

You're on a very sticky wicket when you quote your master as saying "The only place his [Jesus'] position becomes clear is in the Quran!". Where's the evidence that the Quran itself represents prophetic words? as far as I can see, that's just an article of faith, one that is enforced through draconian measures such as persecuting heretics and attacking anyone who dares to question Islam. Methinks Muslims do protest too much: if they were truly confident of their religion, they wouldn't be so defensive and, sometimes at least, fanatical about it.

Let's face it, many Muslims haven't even read the Quran -- even when they may have committed some/all of it to rote memory in Arabic; but if they don't understand Arabic (and many don't), they're no wiser about what it really says. They may just accept what they've been told and imagine that Muhammad is a great prophet and the best man who ever lived. They profess to eschew idolatry, and yet the Muslim world is filled with millions of men who idolise Mohammad -- wear a beard like his was supposed to be, dress like him, act like he is supposed to have, are in fact walking advertisements for him. Not to mention the women, who in large numbers dress like the wives of Muhammad are supposed to have. Christian men don't walk about dressed like Jesus, or women like the virgin Mary; if they imitate Christ, it is usually in spirit rather than outward appearance.

Despite all that, I'm not antithetical to Sufi Muslims. It seems to me that they are much more reasonable than the general run of Muslims, and much more tolerant of other religions. Idries Shah maintained that Sufism was in fact much older than Islam, and has been known under many other names (and no name at all), throughout history. It may be a variant of the perennial philosophy that happens to have concresced around Islam, much as it also concresced around the Christian mystery traditions, concentrating on love and unity, which it has to be said are much more Christian than conventionally Islamic precepts.

Yes, both religions (Islam and Christianity) have had much evil perpetrated in their name, but whilst one can't blame that on Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, it's much less difficult to blame it on Muhammad as portrayed in the Quran. It's irrelevant whether either man existed historically. What counts is the myth as portrayed in the relevant scriptures.

If you want my opinion, maybe Muhammad or someone upon whom his persona is based actually did exist, and maybe there are a few bits of the Quran represent his true utterances as conveyed by God. But I can't believe that the vast majority of the Quran was uttered by such a man. Not when the hate in Christianity so plainly arose from outside the Gospels, whilst that in Islam from inside the Quran.

So take exception all you like; of the two scriptural sources, I know which one I'd choose if I wanted to be a good person. Please note I'm not a conventional Christian; for instance, I doubt the validity of the redemption through Jesus' death, and I take his Sonship as being in all of us. We are all "sons" and "daughters" of God, and for each of us, "redemption" (which I Interpret as positive evolutionary development) is an individual responsibility. Nevertheless, the Christ myth as exemplified in the Gospels is a fine pattern to follow if one wants to be a good person.

Tell me, as a Sufi Muslim, do you believe every word of the Quran?
 
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#22
When I started listening to this episode I thought, "who's this Mark Booth guy, plagiarising Jonathan Black's work?"
What a joy to discover that Alex was interviewing the man who's book I thoroughly enjoyed and digested. The secret history has helped me grasp much of the topology of the spiritual universe I am trying to chart.

It was a while ago that I read it, but some of the most memorable and transformative information I have retained relates to an esoteric/mystery school concept of Adam as vegetable. The vegetable man. I recall vaguely that I understood it as a quite sophisticated re framing of the garden of Eden myth, which beautifully incorporated and interwove the mystery of evolution along the dimensions of the Physical, Spiritual, Emotional - Conscious(ness) evolution. The unitary Adam (hermaphroditic), splitting into two Male and Female, in order that a fuller appreciation and deeper Gnosis of the self be experienced. Truly horizon expanding myth which enables one to ponder more deeply the mystery of existence through wonderfully accessible imagery.

This deeply mysterious and esoteric Adam myth sets the foundations for everything that follows - and is an interesting lens through which to view the subsequent attempts of man throughout history to understand the universe and his place within it - especially mans religious and philosophical tools - ancient mystery schools, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims etc. Each of the world religions is seeking to reunite us with something to make us whole, be it God, the truth, etc. In the same way, Adams two halves, male and female are compelled to re unite, either grossly through sex, or subtly through the inner journey.

Anyway, it was a long while ago that I read it, and it definitely needs a re read.
I am always slightly stunned by Alex's passionate certitude that Joseph Atwill has categorically and undeniably proven that Jesus was a fabrication of the Caesars (Flavian was it?). Jo certainly makes a compelling case, and I have to admit to really being stunned and indeed shaken by Joseph's presentation of the facts. I have engaged with Joseph's work, and find it absolutely convincing, but strangely still find myself wondering whether Jesus actually existed.
I am not a Christian. In fact, I for the longest time have described myself as Buddhist, but lately realise that I am not even that. I have explored and found myself enriched by so many religious and philosophical schools of thought and wisdom that I struggle to place myself solely in any one. That said, I am strangely and deeply attached to the mythical Christ.

This myth allows one to connect to a spiritual quality and depth that seems to exist inside each one of us as an ungerminated seed, and it seems to ring like a bell in resonance with figure and some of most poignant and dramatic episodes in the life of Jesus. While such a deep and profoundly moving and growth inducing feeling is to be experienced through comunion with the stories and myths of other great spiritual figures also, each one seems to have it's own peculiar and unique resonance, tone and depth. The figure and story of Jesus really seems to plumb the depths of the human heart.

That the Gospels were purely a useful tool of political manipulation seems somehow too simple, and equally too complex. A pure invention and creation of imagination without any substance on top of which this story was spun?
I am actually willing to give up the notion that Jesus was a real flesh and blood individual, but I know that I can never give up the myth. At the end of the day, all of the great men and women of history who stir our spirits and raise them up are mythical beings, be it Jesus, Buddha, Krishna or even Dr Martin Luther King Jr. I have my Myth of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and it is very dear to me, but it is just as mythical as Jesus. I knew neither of them in the flesh. I know only stories. I am inspired by their stories. My soul rings like a tuning fork in response to their actions. The ringing of my soul is an absolute truth which I experience as powerfully and knowingly as the love I feel when hugging my children, or the satisfaction of getting into bed after a long and tiring day. These things real and present in my life.

In this sense, Myth is alive. In this sense it is true. So it is to some degree ok if Jesus didn't actually walk the earth. But, I still do not believe the story of Jesus is entirely fabricated. I have a sense that even if the Gospel story was co-opted by the Flavians, that there may have been a character or characters of remarkable spiritual attainment upon which this myth is based. His or their stories may be entirely lost to us now, and all we have left is the gospel story, but I still have a sense that somehow, someone or some individuals existed who attained another level of spiritual development most of us would scarcely believe possible.

One reason I believe this is truly and simply because I hope for it to be the case, to validate my own weak soul's need for external and objective proof of the existence of things which it can only dimly feel and perceive in itself.

But another actually comes surprisingly from the Turin shroud. This object has truly floored me on the question of Jesus.
I had really thought it was just as we had been told, an artifact. A medieval fake from the 13 to 1400's. But this is not the case. The more I found out about it, the more I discovered that there is something undeniably compelling about the shroud. It should not exist. If it was a medieval artifact, then it is truly inexplicable. The method of its creation would point to some bizarre radioactive event, and photography.

Now I don't know if the man in the shroud was Jesus, or someone else who the Jesus myth was placed on top of by the Flavians, but the shroud is just remarkable. It points to some remarkable and inexplicable event which would have involved the dead body of a man who had been beaten and crucified in exactly the manner detailed in the gospels, and some inexplicable radiation photographic imprint of the body onto linen cloth. We cannot do it today, and without a doubt it could not have been done in medieval Europe.

So something physical exists which tantalises me over the Jesus question, and surprisingly, it is this one thing which gives me pause for accepting Jo Atwills version of Jesus ... not faith. I have hope, but not faith.

Sorry, a bit rambling, but this is what I was thinking about when the interview got to the Jesus question.
 
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#23
In conclusion then, I think the shroud itself is not a fake anything.

It almost certainly points to some remarkable event probably around the time of the historical figure of Jesus Christ rather than unknown but equally some remarkable event during the medieval period.

This remarkable event really does look like something involving the substance (matter) of a body discharging light and leaving a photographic imprint on linen cloth.

The photographic image of a crucified and beaten man is only fully and clearly visible when viewed in negative (viz, when a photograph is taken of the cloth, and the film negative is looked at, meaning it would have been invisible to the naked eye at any other time prior to the invention of photography in the 19th century).

What this does is create an anomaly of such weight, that it is not easily dismissed, and for me must be explained. It seems to be an object which casts a shadow from a really existing historical Jesus (and if not Jesus, then some other human being going through a process which fits the Jesus story to a tee).

But, even if this shroud really does point to some remarkable resurrection, transfiguration, dead body projecting light episode around the time of Christ, it doesn't necessarily validate the Gospels. They may still have been co-opted by the Flavians. My argument here is not that Jo Atwills work is wrong, it may be right, but that something happened and is imprinted in this cloth. The question is what? And then Who? How? Etc...

I want to re state this to make this absolutely clear. I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN, so please don't dismiss this as just a desperate attempt of some christian die hard to cling to my beloved Christ. The myth of Christ moves me enough, and I have developed to a point that I realise Myth is every bit as powerful and life changing (if not more so) as historical fact, so I do not need to "cling" to a fact based interpretation of the man Jesus. But, this object exists, and must be dealt with.

So I am left with the wonderful Myth of Jesus which helps me evolve in much the same way as the myth of the Bagavad Gita, the myth Buddha etc. They impart a spirit, or posture of the soul which appeals to many, and inspires many to attempt to posture their own souls in a similar manner. Mark Booth has done wonders in fleshing out and enhancing my grasp, insight and understanding of these transformative myths. He given me a whole new vocabulary with which I can appreciate and derive guidance and inspiration from them.

But what does the shroud say about the Jesus myth? Does it drag it even partially into fact territory?

One might think this is easily brushed aside, but once one wrestles with the data, it quickly becomes clear something remarkable happened regarding the cloth. It is remarkable EVEN if it was a medieval fake, as we have no way to explain or reproduce such an image, even with all our modern technology.
Wrestle honestly with the data, and it will inevitably affect you. In the same way that wrestling with the NDE data affects one, and one sees that despite the baahs and bleats of the scientific priesthood saying there is nothing to see here, there very much IS something to see here.
 
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#24
There are several claims just in the opening few pages of his book which I find contentious, some of these things I've never heard of and cannot find any information on such as Pope John Paul II being initiated into the mystery school tradition by a fellow named Mieczlaw Kotlorezyk who best I can tell is merely a polish actor and literary critic under a similar name - Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk. He claims several historians support his point of view yet never cites any of them... He claims potential initiates were thrown down wells which Is a process I have never heard of nor can find details on... he claims Robert Fludd was a Rosicrucian (in addition to over a dozen other people), while Fludd wrote in defense of the supposed Rosicrucians I'm not aware of any proof in regards to his writings of him having admitted to actually being on. Lastly he claims the book was written to transcribe the words of a supposed Rosicrucian who supposedly was grooming him for initiation, which he turned down because he feared the initiative rite and the supposed oath of literary silence.

It's frankly a serious problem that there is no useage of footnotes in the book as there is a slurry of spurious claims made every page which we are supposed to take on the authors authority or the authority of supposed supporting historians or that of his anonymous Rosicrucian master..

It looks like there is a similar albeit lengthy criticism here which I accidentally turned up searching some of these claims - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture...ews/3669904/An-occult-version-of-history.html


Heck, just read his book yourself.
 
#25
Jesus being born the most pivotal point in history lol.
Demons comes from the word daemon. Time for this show to have a black or native American conscious guest on this show. In fact I think if it did it would push this website to new heights. Let's see if Alex brings on Brother Panic or Bobby Hewitt or Dr Valentin on the show for a podcast
 
#26
My view is that there isn't an "evil" evolutionary path. "Evil" is ignorance. Beings evolve spiritually by learning from experiencing the consequences of their actions. Good actions have good consequences, bad actions have bad consequences
i think a great deal depends on what you mean by ignorance. It can't just be informational. For example do you imagine a pedophile is ignorant of the wrongness of their act? Or is it more likely they are unable to 'choose' to be good? There are complex issues around childhood trauma that wire the brain in a way that can trigger 'evil' acts, and the capacity for moral choice is deeply impaired. There are also forms of predation that feed deeply damaged egos. There are ways that are really not amenable to knowledge versus ignorance - unless you see knowledge as not informational but the capacity to freely choose - and in that freedom choose good.

Also bad consequences arising from bad actions can take a long time to manifest - in the meantime creating the illusion of a good. It takes a visionary to 'know' that what is seen to be a good at the time will ultimately result in an ill. For example, if we accept the standard view of global warming, all the goods of the industrial revolution from 2 and a half centuries ago has come back to bite us.

Evil is a complex theme. It may not even be 'bad' in the god versus bad sense. It may be simply so utterly alien there is no sense of empathy and compassion. Our ancestors who lived close to nature took lives with a deep sense of awareness of what they did. They understood then sacrifice necessary for their nourishment. Now we 'process' animals and plants as if the materialist world vision were true, and they are biological machines only. Maybe demons see us with the same remoteness? Maybe what they do is not 'bad', but good to them?

Evil might what draws us away from good with the lure of benefit that is illusory. I think we need to reserve the term 'evil' for a special category of things that are not merely humans behaving in very screwed up ways.If is tempting to distance ourselves from awful crimes committed by people who are profoundly damaged by calling the acts 'evil' or inhumane. There is a common trick of describing some acts as evil if the people are 'one of us' and we want to make them not so. But then, if the people are not 'one of us' we can safely confirm that otherness by asserting they are evil - not their deeds.

Certainly human morality hingers on knowledge of good and evil - so long as we know what either are - and I rarely see that to be the case.
 
#27
I just think it helps to remain somewhat grounded in history (consensus reality).
But surely one's spiritual path isn't about a collective consensual reality so much as one that we individually craft with the divine? Jesus can be many things to many people. But it when we insist that he is any one thing to everybody that we have a problem. It suits those who seek to govern to come up with a standardised vision of the sacred, because it is easier to manage. There are some things we should render unto to Caesar, but our spirituality is not, and cannot, be one of them.

If we see Jesus, or the Christ, a unique and universal at the same time, we are minded to attend to our own relationship and not be bothered by others - so long as they have one. There are elegant commentaries that assert that belief is not as important as the fact of having a faith, and performing it. However, in a complex pluralistic culture that performance is modified by the necessity of managing relations with others whose performances are very different. We can't act as if our faith is the only one in a reality where it is not - at least not if we are mature, wise and of goodwill.

I am not Christian and I keep my sense of the divine to myself - because, like any deep intimacy, it does not concern others, and neither can it be described or justified to them. I step out of consensual reality as it presently is in that aspect of my life.
 
#28
@Michael Larkin

Whilst I don't disagree with everything you've written above, I do think you're being rather unfair when it comes to Islam.

For one thing, the old testament is very much a part of the religion of Christianity, and is, like the Quran, a product of a time when tribal conflict was common place. You might not see value in the OT, but the vast majority of Christians (including mainstream ones) most definitely do. It is my understanding that moderate (in many places that means mainstream) Islam interprets the Quran through the lens of historical context. Moderate Christians do the same.

Second, Islamic civilisation was, for many centuries, a far more tolerant society than any that existed in Europe at the time. In fact, Islamic advances in science and philosophy (as well as its preservation of Greek philosophy) laid the groundwork for the European renaissance.

Third, contemporary violent fundamentalist Islam is a product of modernity, with a combination of colonialism and brutal homegrown secular nationalists leading to the chipping away of liberal (moderate) Islam and it's replacement (in some quarters) by hard-line and fundamentalist leanings. This process continues today. Extremists seek to wipe away about a thousand years worth of Islamic culture (this explains why the biggest victims of violent Islamic extremists are moderate Muslims).

I can easily imagine, given the right circumstances, Christianity taking a similar turn once again.

And lastly, while I do see Sufi Islam as being a current of the perennial philosophy, It is also most definitely Islamic. Also, Idries Shah IS NOT a reliable source for understanding traditional Sufism.

Peace, bro.
 
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#29
I am always slightly stunned by Alex's passionate certitude that Joseph Atwill has categorically and undeniably proven that Jesus was a fabrication of the Caesars (Flavian was it?).
I don't have "certitude", but if I did it would be that the Gospels are pro-Roman. this one little fact slips thru the Wiki entry without notice, but is actually hugely significant. combine it with all we know about Josephus and you have a strong case for Roman socio-spiritual engineering (which we already know the Romans we quite good at). This is hugely important yet rarely understood by Christians. Atwill deserves tremendous credit for pulling this together and exposing it, but I think he's a bit overzealous in his conclusions.

The figure and story of Jesus really seems to plumb the depths of the human heart.
awesome.

That the Gospels were purely a useful tool of political manipulation seems somehow too simple, and equally too complex. A pure invention and creation of imagination without any substance on top of which this story was spun?
maybe nothing is purely anything.
 
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#30
Jesus being born the most pivotal point in history lol.
Demons comes from the word daemon. Time for this show to have a black or native American conscious guest on this show. In fact I think if it did it would push this website to new heights. Let's see if Alex brings on Brother Panic or Bobby Hewitt or Dr Valentin on the show for a podcast
sounds like fun. pls invite Brother Panic and/or Dr Valentine on my behalf and I will arrange if the are interested.
 
#31
I don't have "certitude", but if I did it would be that the Gospels are pro-Roman. this one little fact slips thru the Wiki entry without notice, but is actually hugely significant. combine it with all we know about Josephus and you have a strong case for Roman socio-spiritual engineering (which we already know the Romans we quite good at). This is hugely important yet rarely understood by Christians. Atwill deserves tremendous credit for pulling this together and exposing it, but I think he's a bit overzealous in his conclusions.


awesome.


maybe nothing is purely anything.
I agree with all you have said here.

It's interesting to me that over the years I have found myself legitimately adopting a philosophical understanding of the universe which is closer to Idealism than any other "ism", and I once was a materialist. Not by choice, but perhaps at the end of my Philosophy degree, by submission. After many years, and also thanks to this show, I find Idealism not only tenable, but obviously preferable and a more robust fit for the data.

I find Atwills work fascinating, and am not able to pick any holes in it per se. It is remarkable. But, for me I do feel a spirit of materialism sneaking in by the back door, or perhaps under the coat tails of his magnum Opus.

I know his work doesn't really present any threat to the philosophical legitimacy of Idealism, but my sense is that HE just may think it does. I can't help but feel as you say, the "over zealousness" he possesses may betray a less than impartial attitude toward a Jesus figure.

If you ask me to prove it, I cannot, and perhaps mentioning it is a mistake, but honestly it is a subtle sense I get from hearing interviews you've done with him. A kind of subtle flavour you can't quite identify, but are familiar with, hmm, is that ... world view bias?

Maybe that is why I struggle to accept totally his really rather beautiful thesis, because I think for Jo, on some level, this Flavian authorship thing gives him a powerful sense of validation for his own pre existing worldview, which I sense I would not resonate with.

(I don't know his world view, but again sense a flavour I've tasted before, but can't quite pin down. I just know it doesn't go well in my own sandwich).

Oh, that, and the Shroud, for me, throw a fairly large spanner in an otherwise very elegant works.
 
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#32
@Michael Larkin

Whilst I don't disagree with everything you've written above, I do think you're being rather unfair when it comes to Islam.

For one thing, the old testament is very much a part of the religion of Christianity, and is, like the Quran, a product of a time when tribal conflict was common place. You might not see value in the OT, but the vast majority of Christians (including mainstream ones) most definitely do. It is my understanding that moderate (in many places that means mainstream) Islam interprets the Quran through the lens of historical context. Moderate Christians do the same.

Second, Islamic civilisation was, for many centuries, a far more tolerant society than any that existed in Europe at the time. In fact, Islamic advances in science and philosophy (as well as its preservation of Greek philosophy) laid the groundwork for the European renaissance.

Third, contemporary violent fundamentalist Islam is a product of modernity, with a combination of colonialism and brutal homegrown secular nationalists leading to the chipping away of liberal (moderate) Islam and it's replacement (in some quarters) by hard-line and fundamentalist leanings. This process continues today. Extremists seek to wipe away about a thousand years worth of Islamic culture (this explains why the biggest victims of violent Islamic extremists are moderate Muslims).

I can easily imagine, given the right circumstances, Christianity taking a similar turn once again.

And lastly, while I do see Sufi Islam as being a current of the perennial philosophy, It is also most definitely Islamic. Also, Idries Shah IS NOT a reliable source for understanding traditional Sufism.

Peace, bro.
1. The Old Testament was included in the Christian canon by those calling themselves Christians, mainly endorsed by the gospel of Matthew, which took pains to point out that Jesus fulfilled OT prophesy. I did not say that the gospels (in this case Matthew) weren't at least in part crafted after the fact to bolster Jesus as being the Messiah of the OT. Sure, the gospels contain elements of Christian propaganda, but then nobody denies that they were written by people keen to evangelise their new religion. It is not claimed that they are the word of God, but rather the word of man.

However, the overall message of the gospels contains few (if any) elements that glorify violence; in fact, the reverse is overwhelmingly the case. The violence that has accompanied Christianity can't be justified by the gospels: it arose in the thoughts and actions of so-called Christians without their imprimatur. Contrast that with the Quran, which is claimed to be the word of God and does provide an explicit imprimatur for violence for any Muslims wishing to employ it. It may be that many Muslims don't act on that imprimatur, but if any of them want to be violent in the name of Islam, they can easily find justification in the Quran.

2. I've read practically everything that Idries Shah wrote, and still I'm undecided whether he's a reliable source. He was, however, probably correct that some people who call themselves Sufis aren't Muslims: they can be Hindus or Christians, for example. Many Muslims don't think that Sufism is a legitimate part of Islam, and are hostile to it, possibly because Sufism is so compatible with some of the values of other religions, including Christianity. To style oneself a "Sufi Muslim" is, in their eyes, an oxymoron.

It's also true that some who style themselves thus aren't necessarily peaceful and are definitely orientated towards Islam. It appears that "Sufism" is as diverse as Islam itself, but it's thought of as "mysticism" in a derogatory sense by many Muslims, at least the more Quranically literalist ones.

Shah rejected the idea that being a Sufi was a matter of personal choice. He thought it as a state of being perfected as a human being. According to this, there are relatively few true Sufis -- the rest are, at best, people who aspire to be, and may be being trained by, pukka Sufis. It is extremely difficult, almost impossible, he maintained, to become a Sufi without a teacher -- and I note that Psazonoff said he had a "spiritual master".

Was Shah right? Who knows. But it would tie in with various schools of the perennial philosophy, where there was a hierarchy with masters at the top and aspirants below.
 
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#33
Hmm. The Quran's provenance is every bit, if not more, dubious than the Gospels. The latter at least make sense and can be read as narratives, and it doesn't require a vast array of all-too-human literature generated as much as a couple of hundred years after the putative life of Muhammad to understand them.

Broadly speaking, the Medinan verses come first and the Meccan verses second (the opposite of the chronological order, putatively, they should be in); they are assembled roughly from longest to shortest in length rather than in narrative order. Their source seems to include a mishmash of new/old testament and Talmudic stories. Without the sirah (biography) of Muhammad and hadith [chains of traditions about him supposedly passed on by reliable people], it would be very difficult to make any sense out of the Quran; I know I can't, and since I have no faith in the sirah or hadith, I can only look at the Quran and wonder how it came to be so exalted.

You're on a very sticky wicket when you quote your master as saying "The only place his [Jesus'] position becomes clear is in the Quran!". Where's the evidence that the Quran itself represents prophetic words? as far as I can see, that's just an article of faith, one that is enforced through draconian measures such as persecuting heretics and attacking anyone who dares to question Islam. Methinks Muslims do protest too much: if they were truly confident of their religion, they wouldn't be so defensive and, sometimes at least, fanatical about it.

Let's face it, many Muslims haven't even read the Quran -- even when they may have committed some/all of it to rote memory in Arabic; but if they don't understand Arabic (and many don't), they're no wiser about what it really says. They may just accept what they've been told and imagine that Muhammad is a great prophet and the best man who ever lived. They profess to eschew idolatry, and yet the Muslim world is filled with millions of men who idolise Mohammad -- wear a beard like his was supposed to be, dress like him, act like he is supposed to have, are in fact walking advertisements for him. Not to mention the women, who in large numbers dress like the wives of Muhammad are supposed to have. Christian men don't walk about dressed like Jesus, or women like the virgin Mary; if they imitate Christ, it is usually in spirit rather than outward appearance.

Despite all that, I'm not antithetical to Sufi Muslims. It seems to me that they are much more reasonable than the general run of Muslims, and much more tolerant of other religions. Idries Shah maintained that Sufism was in fact much older than Islam, and has been known under many other names (and no name at all), throughout history. It may be a variant of the perennial philosophy that happens to have concresced around Islam, much as it also concresced around the Christian mystery traditions, concentrating on love and unity, which it has to be said are much more Christian than conventionally Islamic precepts.

Yes, both religions (Islam and Christianity) have had much evil perpetrated in their name, but whilst one can't blame that on Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, it's much less difficult to blame it on Muhammad as portrayed in the Quran. It's irrelevant whether either man existed historically. What counts is the myth as portrayed in the relevant scriptures.

If you want my opinion, maybe Muhammad or someone upon whom his persona is based actually did exist, and maybe there are a few bits of the Quran represent his true utterances as conveyed by God. But I can't believe that the vast majority of the Quran was uttered by such a man. Not when the hate in Christianity so plainly arose from outside the Gospels, whilst that in Islam from inside the Quran.

So take exception all you like; of the two scriptural sources, I know which one I'd choose if I wanted to be a good person. Please note I'm not a conventional Christian; for instance, I doubt the validity of the redemption through Jesus' death, and I take his Sonship as being in all of us. We are all "sons" and "daughters" of God, and for each of us, "redemption" (which I Interpret as positive evolutionary development) is an individual responsibility. Nevertheless, the Christ myth as exemplified in the Gospels is a fine pattern to follow if one wants to be a good person.

Tell me, as a Sufi Muslim, do you believe every word of the Quran?
Hmm. The Quran's provenance is every bit, if not more, dubious than the Gospels. The latter at least make sense and can be read as narratives, and it doesn't require a vast array of all-too-human literature generated as much as a couple of hundred years after the putative life of Muhammad to understand them.

Broadly speaking, the Medinan verses come first and the Meccan verses second (the opposite of the chronological order, putatively, they should be in); they are assembled roughly from longest to shortest in length rather than in narrative order. Their source seems to include a mishmash of new/old testament and Talmudic stories. Without the sirah (biography) of Muhammad and hadith [chains of traditions about him supposedly passed on by reliable people], it would be very difficult to make any sense out of the Quran; I know I can't, and since I have no faith in the sirah or hadith, I can only look at the Quran and wonder how it came to be so exalted.

You're on a very sticky wicket when you quote your master as saying "The only place his [Jesus'] position becomes clear is in the Quran!". Where's the evidence that the Quran itself represents prophetic words? as far as I can see, that's just an article of faith, one that is enforced through draconian measures such as persecuting heretics and attacking anyone who dares to question Islam. Methinks Muslims do protest too much: if they were truly confident of their religion, they wouldn't be so defensive and, sometimes at least, fanatical about it.

Let's face it, many Muslims haven't even read the Quran -- even when they may have committed some/all of it to rote memory in Arabic; but if they don't understand Arabic (and many don't), they're no wiser about what it really says. They may just accept what they've been told and imagine that Muhammad is a great prophet and the best man who ever lived. They profess to eschew idolatry, and yet the Muslim world is filled with millions of men who idolise Mohammad -- wear a beard like his was supposed to be, dress like him, act like he is supposed to have, are in fact walking advertisements for him. Not to mention the women, who in large numbers dress like the wives of Muhammad are supposed to have. Christian men don't walk about dressed like Jesus, or women like the virgin Mary; if they imitate Christ, it is usually in spirit rather than outward appearance.

Despite all that, I'm not antithetical to Sufi Muslims. It seems to me that they are much more reasonable than the general run of Muslims, and much more tolerant of other religions. Idries Shah maintained that Sufism was in fact much older than Islam, and has been known under many other names (and no name at all), throughout history. It may be a variant of the perennial philosophy that happens to have concresced around Islam, much as it also concresced around the Christian mystery traditions, concentrating on love and unity, which it has to be said are much more Christian than conventionally Islamic precepts.

Yes, both religions (Islam and Christianity) have had much evil perpetrated in their name, but whilst one can't blame that on Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, it's much less difficult to blame it on Muhammad as portrayed in the Quran. It's irrelevant whether either man existed historically. What counts is the myth as portrayed in the relevant scriptures.

If you want my opinion, maybe Muhammad or someone upon whom his persona is based actually did exist, and maybe there are a few bits of the Quran represent his true utterances as conveyed by God. But I can't believe that the vast majority of the Quran was uttered by such a man. Not when the hate in Christianity so plainly arose from outside the Gospels, whilst that in Islam from inside the Quran.

So take exception all you like; of the two scriptural sources, I know which one I'd choose if I wanted to be a good person. Please note I'm not a conventional Christian; for instance, I doubt the validity of the redemption through Jesus' death, and I take his Sonship as being in all of us. We are all "sons" and "daughters" of God, and for each of us, "redemption" (which I Interpret as positive evolutionary development) is an individual responsibility. Nevertheless, the Christ myth as exemplified in the Gospels is a fine pattern to follow if one wants to be a good person.

Tell me, as a Sufi Muslim, do you believe every word of the Quran?
In my experience, the Quran is more like a food to be eaten in bites, rather than a book to be read, if that makes any sense. If you try and approach it in the usual way, well, it seems like you’ve already experienced what happens. Try coming to it as you’d come to a buffet table. Take a little from what seems tasty to you, take a few bites, and see how you do.
 
#34
The violence that has accompanied Christianity can't be justified by the gospels: it arose in the thoughts and actions of so-called Christians without their imprimatur
It is worthwhile observing that the violence perpetrated by Christians is most often defended by reference the the Old Testament. This is a fundamental problem with Christianity, as it evolved. The fundamental teachings of Jesus did not deliver the logic upon which to govern, and for Christianity to become the faith of an empire it needed that.The OT delivered that in spades.

In my view the linkages with the OT subverted the message of Jesus as it evolved into Christianity. But we do know that there were attempts to keep Jesus's teachings as an internal Jewish reform, until Paul wrecked that. The Pauline version of the faith is what we now know as Christianity, and this raises some interesting points - including the idea that what arose in that stream was mythic fiction. There are even doubts among some scholars that can be summed up in the notion the Paul 'invented' Jesus because of his enmity toward James (Jesus' 'brother'). Certainly it was Paul who introduced the 'Christ' and fused the name and title together.

So the idea that this was all ordained by the Divine might be hard to swallow, given that it followed such a messy and improbable pathway - unless the key thing for the West was Paul's crazy idea, which had to be knitted back into the Judaic tradition to have any substantive appeal. Constantine was not interested in upgrading a mysticism to the status of an official faith - at least not of the kind seemingly espoused by Jesus. He would have needed a rationale to run an empire. Though it does seem that he also understood that mystical faith can inspire extreme focus and will - handy in a conflict, as the Vikings and others well knew - including the Nazis.

While I take Michael Larkin's point, and its intent, I do not think that you can separate the mysticism fo Jesus from the Judaic tradition in the general run of the the faith's history. You can in a minority of instances, of course, because there were individuals and movements within the faith inspired by the mystical foundation. But you needed the OT's pretty harsh pragmatism to run an empire - as the Spanish and English later exploited to their profit.
 
#35
So the idea that this was all ordained by the Divine might be hard to swallow, given that it followed such a messy and improbable pathway - unless the key thing for the West was Paul's crazy idea, which had to be knitted back into the Judaic tradition to have any substantive appeal.
That kind of sums up what I feel about Christianity and many other religions - whatever insight was behind them originally, has been lost in endless accidents of history.

David
 
#37
In my experience, the Quran is more like a food to be eaten in bites, rather than a book to be read, if that makes any sense. If you try and approach it in the usual way, well, it seems like you’ve already experienced what happens. Try coming to it as you’d come to a buffet table. Take a little from what seems tasty to you, take a few bites, and see how you do.
You didn't answer my question: as a Sufi Muslim do you believe every word of the Quran? I'll put it another way: have you a way of interpreting every verse of the Quran in a beneficent way, no matter how superficially objectionable it might seem? Even 9.5, the so-called sword verse? I've read exegesis that says it refers to the desert Arabs who broke a treaty, not to everyone who wasn't a Muslim.

However, if that is the case, what are even conditional exhortations (if they repented their heresy, they would be forgiven) to kill other human beings doing in a holy book? One can't find anything like that in the Gospels, whose overall message is one of unconditional love and forgiveness, despite the fact that they are man's and not God's word. Can man then be more loving than God? I don't get why God would dress wholly loving messages in inscrutable clothes, in language that, read literally, means its opposite. It makes the Quran seem to me like an obstacle course.

I'm not attacking you or Muslims in general. I'm actually very sympatico with Sufism and my predominant attitude to (non-Sufi) Muslims is one of regret that they are indoctrinated from birth in a religion that seems to me to be full of contradiction and at least latent incitements to violence and totalitarianism. Islam was able to exercise a modicum of restraint and demonstrate some enlightened attitudes before a certain point in time when the clerics won out and effectively ossified it, so that dissent and individual interpretation became more and more frowned upon.

In my view, that's why many Islamic nations have tended to become static and even regressive. There has been for a long time a lack of a living impulse towards evolution under Islam. In non-Islamic nations, there's been more of a chance for development in attitudes, accompanied by advances in science and technology. This opportunity could have been taken up by Islam, but instead, it regressed and tended towards totalitarianism. By default, the ball was handed over to Christian cultures, which eventually managed to shake off rigid doctrine and start thinking for themselves.

Now that Christianity is on the wane in the West, I note that we are beginning to see a return to the doctrinaire mode of thought: to irrational and pernicious ostracism of those who like to think for themselves. I think this parallels what happened to Islam and could end up having similar effects if we're not careful, viz. the decline and ossification of Western civilisation.
 
#39
What do you (and anyone else) think about the prospect of "anatheism" as described by Rupert Sheldrake?

Its a perfectly sensible idea on the face of it. I have downloaded the video for later leisurely consumption. Aside from the hardcore denials of the ubermaterialist most people have an 'instinct' for the divine., But there is a fundamental difference between natural 'instinct' and the contrived and mannered theologies of formal faiths.

Look at this way. We all yearn for the healthy natural embrace of love. But many of us are so screwed up all we can find are distorted parodies of the real thing, so it can be easy to abandon almost all realistic hope and seek out a coalition of mutual delusion and disappointment. Some abandon the prospect of the mutual delusion and become emotional and metaphysical deserts. We have a whole economy based on exploiting the flickering remnants of hope. How we aspire to the divine is similar to how we aspire to love - and therein lies the dangerous pathology of faith.

However there are widespread and sincere efforts to rediscover 'true love' of the divine. I called my blog aspiringanimist.com to make the point that while I wanted to be an animist, I didn't become one by adopting the name. I am seeking to 'realise' an aspiration. I am not an animist, but I want to become one. If I am pedantic, I'd like to see aspiring Christians and aspiring Buddhists. Calling oneself either is not the same thing as being it. I could call myself rich, but that is not going to perform magic on my bank balance. If being an 'anatheist' is a way of conveying aspiration I am all for it. I would just make sure you are not misheard and are mistaken for an anaesthetist.

I think the majority of folk I know are essentially anatheistic. So much depends on how one goes about the search/aspiration. It can disciplined or chaotic. It can driven by reason or emotion. It can be communal or solitary. The category of Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) is expanding. Joanne Pearson's Belief Without Boundaries is a useful read. A dry but interesting conference held at Harvard Divinity School may be of value to any one wanting to dig deeper without the serious read Person offers -
.

I think that Rupert's respectable disciplined academic approach sometimes misses the wild reality that pretty much most folk are doing this anatheistic thing - if they have any thought at all toward the sacred and the divine. The beauty of this wild curiosity is that it is generating diverse and marvellous commentaries. I have just started reading Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life, and it is a passionate engagement with metaphysical and theological ideas. I am happy to be swept up in the enthusiasm, while disagreeing on some specifics.

I subscribe to the idea that humans have an innate 'religious' mentality, and even those who deny religion cannot escape the model. This is what so many recognise - that political ideals are often expressions of 'secular religion' - even the avowed devotees of atheism. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. So, of course, most areas of inquiry and service have spiritual undertones.

Anatheism is not a form of 'theology' in the old sense. It is nothing to do with 'religion' as we have come to define it. The limits of the word are its reference to 'theism' as presumption there is God framed as in the familiar way. But then the real seekers will exceed the confines of theological habit. We have defined religion to conform to the constraints from faiths and theologians. For me religion is how we formulate an existential relationship (personally and communally) with a reality that is sentient and endowed with will, intent and intelligence. For me being 'religious' is aspirational. It is a difficult, challenging and ongoing striving.

In fact, the more I reflect on the term, if theism is an assertion of knowledge or faith, and atheism is an assertion of denial, it would seem that anatheism is the only honest and self-aware position to hold - for most of us.
 
#40
It is worthwhile observing that the violence perpetrated by Christians is most often defended by reference the the Old Testament. This is a fundamental problem with Christianity, as it evolved. The fundamental teachings of Jesus did not deliver the logic upon which to govern, and for Christianity to become the faith of an empire it needed that.The OT delivered that in spades.

In my view the linkages with the OT subverted the message of Jesus as it evolved into Christianity. But we do know that there were attempts to keep Jesus's teachings as an internal Jewish reform, until Paul wrecked that. The Pauline version of the faith is what we now know as Christianity, and this raises some interesting points - including the idea that what arose in that stream was mythic fiction. There are even doubts among some scholars that can be summed up in the notion the Paul 'invented' Jesus because of his enmity toward James (Jesus' 'brother'). Certainly it was Paul who introduced the 'Christ' and fused the name and title together.

So the idea that this was all ordained by the Divine might be hard to swallow, given that it followed such a messy and improbable pathway - unless the key thing for the West was Paul's crazy idea, which had to be knitted back into the Judaic tradition to have any substantive appeal. Constantine was not interested in upgrading a mysticism to the status of an official faith - at least not of the kind seemingly espoused by Jesus. He would have needed a rationale to run an empire. Though it does seem that he also understood that mystical faith can inspire extreme focus and will - handy in a conflict, as the Vikings and others well knew - including the Nazis.

While I take Michael Larkin's point, and its intent, I do not think that you can separate the mysticism fo Jesus from the Judaic tradition in the general run of the the faith's history. You can in a minority of instances, of course, because there were individuals and movements within the faith inspired by the mystical foundation. But you needed the OT's pretty harsh pragmatism to run an empire - as the Spanish and English later exploited to their profit.
You make a good point. Christianity as we've come to know it is probably in part a human construction, and for that, it needed some of the "harsh pragmatism" of the OT. But notwithstanding that, in my view, the OT has no place in Christianity, and the Gospels better reflect its true ethos, though I'm not ruling out the possibility that they too were to some extent altered in service of an evangelical (perhaps partly political?) agenda.

One can go the whole hog and support Atwill's thesis that it's all made up for the political purpose of Roman control of an empire, but what I would say is that the central message of the Gospels is distinctly un-Roman. I don't think they could ever have made it up themselves. They could maybe try to bend it to suit their purposes in a pragmatic way, but if so, I think they largely failed.

I believe that the central message of the gospels is true and that it didn't originate with the Romans. They wouldn't have empathised with the Golden Rule in any circumstance that involved non-Romans. The Rule itself bears both exoteric and esoteric interpretation, and serves as a bridge between the two. It's a key to spiritual development; to realising that one is part of a whole, no more and no less than anyone else.
 
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