An innate knowledge of the Gods is coexistent with our very existence; and this knowledge is superior to all judgement and deliberate choice, and subsists prior to reason and demonstration.
– Iamblichus, 4th Century Neoplatonist, On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians
The first Nazarene communities established in the first centuries C.E. by Jesus’ own disciples and inspired Master Teachers knew no birthday for their saviour. Only with the triumph of the Constantinian (Christian) church in the 4th century did the adoption of a date become an issue. The Roman Church Fathers pushed for the adoption of the Mithraic winter-solstice festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
In fact most of the ancient Mysteries celebrated the nativity of the solar deities Attis, Osiris, and Dionysus, in the form of the Divine Child, at the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice on or near 25 December. As Charles King explains:
the old festival held on the 25th day of December in honour of the ‘Birth-day of the Invincible One,’ and celebrated by the Great Games of the Circus… was afterwards transferred to the commemoration of the Birth of Christ, of which the real day was, as the Fathers confess, totally unknown: Chrysostom, for example, declares that the Birthday of Christ had then lately been fixed at Rome upon that day, in order that whilst the heathen were busied with their own profane ceremonies, the Christians might perform their holy rites without molestation.1
The Roman church adopted 25 December as the nativity of Jesus the Christ because the people were used to celebrating it as the birthday of a solar deity, the Son of Man who bore such titles as Light of the World, Sun of Righteousness, Liberator and Saviour.
The Eastern branch of the Christian church, still influenced by the earliest Nazarene precepts, placed no significance on a fixed date for the birth of Jesus the Christ. For them the birthday of the Galilean Master Jesus was of little importance compared with his life and sacrifice on the tree of matter. Only late in the 4th century did they agree to honour it. The church of Jerusalem continued to ignore the Roman date of 25 December until the 7th century. Within the Eastern Orthodox churches holy Easter, the commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, is held to be the high point of the Orthodox calendar and is celebrated with more pomp than Christmas.
The distinguished Orientalist Alain Danielou says that in India the winter solstice is celebrated as the birth of the god Shiva, who was worshipped in Greece under the name Dionysus. Danielou remarks that the birth of Shiva’s son Skanda (the god of transcendent Knowledge or Gnosis) and Krishna (held to embody the supreme personality of the Absolute) are also celebrated at the winter solstice. Krishna and Skandar, both portrayed as the Divine Child, share numerous similarities with Dionysus.
In the words of one scholar:
In the fixing of the dates for the feasts of the Christian year… it is possible to glimpse the memory of many of the ceremonies belonging to a previous era. At Delphi in Winter, the Thyades, the Bacchantes of Parnassus, used to awaken a baby in a cradle, the liknites, or infant Dionysus, whose reappearance was celebrated about the time of the Winter solstice [25 December]… The establishing of the feast of the Christian Nativity (starting from the fourth century of our era) on a date close to it in the calendar… accounts for the mechanism by virtue of which a new god is inserted at a liturgical period which existed before the spread of his own cult.2
Mystery of the Solar Kristos
Essene communities in the Holy Land and other pre-Christian, Jewish, and Pagan Gnostics welcomed the Christian revelation, finding in its teachings a familiar echo of their own ideas. Christian Gnostics became part of the rich religious tapestry of the area, which was also influenced by the growth of the Mithraic religion throughout the Roma Empire. The Neoplatonists were the first to protest the exclusivity and increasing militancy of Christianity. Intolerance of other beliefs was introduced largely by St. Paul and grew progressively worse as Christianity assumed greater political power in the Roman Empire. Constantine declared it the state religion in 325.3
The Ancient Tradition, upheld by all the Secret Schools since the dawn of time, finds its outward expression in the universal message of a past Golden Age when Man was free from care and evil non-existent; to the subsequent ‘fall’ of Man and the loss of oneness with the Divine; and finally to a revelation received from heaven foretelling the reparation of this loss and the coming of a Redeemer who should save humanity. We find this message, in a multitude of forms, within the great pre-Christian pagan traditions.
Everywhere, in Persia, as in Egypt, in Sumeria as in Greece, all the legends associated with divine saviours told of the voluntary sacrifice of a youthful deity, embodying the Solar Kristos or Logos, the manifested emanation from the one omnipotent, ever concealed, infinite and unknown Father. Each of these saviours may be compared to a ray of the Solar Kristos incarnate in human form.
The triumph of the Roman church as a political power witnessed the corruption and debasing of many of these venerable motifs, myths, legends and principles, as well as their absorption into what became Christianity. At the same time in its dogmatic form the Church portrayed itself as the sole repository of truth, slandering the noble pre-Christian traditions as the ‘work of the devil.’ Driven on by their need to discredit the entire true and good in the previous religions, Christian zealots sacked the temples of other saviours, burned ancient sacred books, and attacked initiates of the Mystery Schools. Their crimes knew no bounds as they built their own churches on the same foundations as the old ‘pagan’ temples. In 415, an enraged Christian mob, incited by the Church bishop, captured Hypatia, the famed female leader of the Alexandrian Neoplatonic school. She was then tortured, killed, and dismembered.
When confronted with the remarkable similarity between the Christian Jesus and the saviour deities of the ancient world, the Church Fathers retorted that the devil himself had – centuries before – caused the pagans to adopt certain beliefs and practices. Justin Martyr for instance describes the institution of the Lord’s Supper as narrated in the Gospels, and then goes on to say: “Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithra, commanding the same thing to be done.” Tertullian also says:
the devil by the mysteries of his idols imitates even the main part of the divine mysteries… He baptises his worshippers in water and makes them believe that this purifies them from their crimes… Mithra sets his mark on the forehead of his soldiers; he celebrates the oblation of bread; he offers an image of the resurrection, and presents at once the crown and the sword; he limits his chief priest to a single marriage; he even has his virgins and ascetics.
The Spanish explorer Cortez, too, it will be remembered, complained that the devil had positively taught to the indigenous peoples of the Americas the same things the Christ had taught to Christendom.
The Master Teachers of the Gnostic Secret Schools maintained that throughout history Saviours, Avatars, Messiahs and Christs appeared in all lands and to diverse peoples. These Kristed-beings brought a message of liberation to mortals trapped in the darkness of mundane existence. As a modern scholar of Gnosticism, Professor Hans Jonas, explains:
The savior does not come just once into the world but that from the beginning of time he wanders in different forms through history, himself exiled in the world, and revealing himself ever anew until, with his gathering-in complete, he can be released from his cosmic mission.4
Examining ancient history we discover these Kristed ones, embodiments of the First Emanation (Logos) of the Heavenly Father, described in a number of ways. Of nearly all these saviours it was widely believed:
(1) They were born on or very near the winter solstice (Christmas day).
(2) They were born of a Virgin-Mother.
(3) And in a Cave or Underground chamber.
(4) They led a life of toil for Mankind.
(5) And were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator, Saviour, Deliverer, Shepherd.
(6) They were however temporarily vanquished by the Powers of Darkness.
(7) And descended into Hell or the Underworld.
(8) They rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to the Heavenly world, the Realm of the Father.
(9) They founded communities of believers, and Orders into which disciples were received by baptism.
(10) And they were commemorated by sacrificial Eucharistic meals.
Jesus the Christ can be said to be the last in a long line of Avatars and Christs who came to earth to bring humanity knowledge of the True God. Let us briefly review the similarities between some of these saviours and the Gospel Jesus.
The French scholar Renan once wrote: “If Christianity had succumbed to some deadly ‘disease’, the world would have become Mithracized.” In other words, it would have adopted the religion of Mithra. Mithraism arrived in Rome during the first half of the first century B.C.E. By 307 the Roman emperor officially designated Mithra “Protector of the Empire.”
The Christian Church Fathers incorporated many details of the Mithraic mystery religion into their Church ceremonies and doctrine. The influence of Mithraism on the emerging Christian church is obvious in the Church’s adoption of the Mithraic feast of 25 December. Some resemblances between Christianity and Mithraism were so close that even St. Augustine had to grudgingly confess that the priests of Mithra worshipped the same deity as he did. Dr. Martin Larson says:
The fact is that the parallel between Mithraism and apostolic Christianity was actually far more extensive than any of the early Fathers implied. Both taught almost identical doctrines concerning heaven and hell, the last judgement, and the immortality of the soul. Both practiced the same sacraments, those of baptism and the communion of bread and wine. Regeneration through the second birth was a basic doctrine of both, and each had the same conception concerning the inter-relationship of their members – that all were mystical brethren. Each believed that its founder was mediator between God and Man, that through him alone was salvation possible, and that he would be the final judge of all. Both taught the doctrine of primitive revelation. Both emphasised the constant warfare between good and evil, required abstinence and self-control, and accorded the highest honour to celibacy. We need not be surprised at these similarities, since we know that Mithraism and Christianity were alike based upon ubiquitous doctrines and practices already hoary with age before these cults appeared.5
The Persian saviour deity Mithra embodied the Solar Kristos, the Maintainer of the Universe. The Zoroastrian holy scripture the Zendavesta declares Mithra to be the First Emanation of Ahura Mazda, the Supreme Lord of Wisdom and Goodness, and the manifestation of Himself unto the world. From Ahura Mazda emanated a number of hierarchies of good and beautiful divine beings (angels and archangels).
It is worth recalling the admission of the Judean historian Josephus that the highest principles of the Jewish religion, in the time of Jesus, were all drawn from the Zoroastrian scheme.
The apostle Paul, who came from Tarsus a stronghold of Mithraism, uses the language of the Mithraic mysteries in explaining that Jesus the Christ is the “Brightness (or reflection) of his glory, the express image of his person, upholding all things by the word of his power.” Thereby testifying to the truth that Jesus the Christ is a reflection of the Invisible Supreme One in his First Emanation (as the Kristos or Logos).
Horus & Osiris
Osiris, you have gone away, but you have returned; you were asleep, but you have been wakened. You died, but you live again.6
Horus, the son of the Egyptian deities Isis and Osiris, was born at the winter solstice. To the ancient Egyptians the visible terrestrial sun was a mere representation of the invisible spiritual Central Sun of Divine Wisdom. The solar deity Osiris manifests as the infant Horus in the hearts of mankind; becoming “regenerated” within the souls of the pure by the power of the eternal Mother, Isis, the ever immaculate virgin, the blessed Queen of Heaven. By his own power Horus, son of Osiris, vanquished Set the Evil Principle, just as Jesus the Christ overcame Satan. In the words of the 19th century author Gerald Massey:
The Christian dispensation is believed to have been ushered in by the birth of a child, and the portrait of that child in the Roman catacombs as the child of Mary is the youthful Sun-God in the mummy image of the child-king, the Egyptian Karast, or Christ. The alleged facts of our Lord’s life as Jesus the Christ, were equally the alleged facts of our Lord’s life as the Horus of Egypt.
Images of the goddess Isis and her infant son Horus were sacred objects in every Egyptian home, resembling Mary and the Christ-child, both in appearance and in veneration.
Osiris, the father of Horus, was human, like us, and thus able to take upon himself all our sorrow, but also divine, and therefore able to confer divinity upon mortals. He brought the divine bread from heaven for humanity; he taught justice and practiced mercy; he died, was buried, and rose from the grave; he gave to all who became members of his mystical body his flesh to eat and his blood to drink so that this divine sacrament might then transfigure them into celestial gods; he went before to prepare mansions for his initiates.7
Of all the saviour deities worshipped by the ancients as personifications of the First Emanation of the Father, it is Osiris with whom Jesus the Christ is most associated. Osiris was called Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and God of Gods. He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who “made men and women to be born again.” The renowned Egyptologist Budge says, “From first to last, Osiris was to the Egyptians the god-man who suffered, and died, and rose again, and reigned eternally in heaven. They believed that they would inherit eternal life, just as he had done.”
According to Egyptian scriptures, “As truly as Osiris lives, so truly shall his follower live; as truly as Osiris is not dead he shall die no more; as truly as Osiris is not annihilated he shall not be annihilated.” The flesh of Osiris was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat, the “plant of Truth.” Osiris was Truth, and those who ate him became Truth also, each of them another Osiris, a Son of God, a “Light-god, a dweller in the Light-god.”
At death, every Egyptian had to appear before the judgment tribunal presided over by Osiris himself, and receive a new life. Osiris could search out the secret places of the heart, and before him no one could be perfect in his own right. Every aspirant to “Osiris-ship” (Khrist-hood) knew that if the law was enforced, he could never enter eternal life. Therefore he exclaimed: “Do ye away with my evil deeds, and put ye away my sin which deserved stripes on earth, and destroy ye any evil whatsoever that belongeth unto me.” Centuries before the Sermon on the Mount, the Egyptian suppliant implored: “bring ye not forward my wickedness… [for] I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man, and apparel to the naked man, and a boat to the shipwrecked mariner. I have made holy offerings to the gods… Be ye then my deliverers, be ye then my protectors… I am clean of mouth and clean of hands; therefore, let it be said unto me…’Come in peace; come in peace.’”
Budge remarks that the Egyptians believed in “the resurrection of the body in a changed and glorified form, which would live to all eternity in the company of the spirits and souls of the righteous in a kingdom ruled by a being who was of divine origin, but who had lived upon the earth, and had suffered a cruel death at the hands of his enemies, and had risen from the dead, and had become the God and king of the world which is beyond the grave.”
Many of the expressions and stories found in the Bible are drawn from the older ‘pagan’ traditions of Egypt and Sumeria. Sir Charles Marston concludes in The New Knowledge about the Old Testament:
Before the time of Abraham, then, before any book of the Old Testament was written, and right down through the centuries after every book in the Old Testament had been written, there existed this belief in a Future Life and the presence of the bread and water of Eternal Life in Heaven. The possession of this knowledge enhances the significance of Christ’s statements in the New Testament: “I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and “I am the Living Bread which came down out of Heaven, if any man eat this Bread he shall live forever” (John 6:51) and again “The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up in Everlasting Life (John 4:14).
The 23rd Psalm in the Old Testament is taken from an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the “green pastures” and “still waters”, to restore the soul to the body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death. The Lord’s Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris-Amen beginning “O Amen, O Amen, who art in heaven.” Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer by the devotees of Osiris. The priests of Osiris, like the later Christian priests and Gnostic Elect, were celibates.
Jesus’ words, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24), reflect an Osirian doctrine that a dying man is like a corn of wheat “which falls into the earth in order to draw from its bosom a new life.” Jesus’ words, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2) is very similar to an Egyptian text telling of numerous Arits (“mansions”) in the blessed land of Father Osiris. Ancient legends about Osiris were ascribed by Christians to Jesus.
In ancient Greece Dionysus was the god-begotten, virgin-born Anointed One (Kristos). Some writers see the young god as a prototype of Jesus the Christ. Portrayed as seated on the Heavenly Father’s throne, brandishing his lightning-scepter, Dionysus was hailed as King of Kings and God of Gods, titles later applied to the resurrected Jesus. The crucified Jesus was referred to as hanging on a tree, in the same way the sacrificial Dionysus was titled the “Young Man of the Tree.”
The Roman historian Tacitus said Dionysus had been the god of Jerusalem in an earlier period, but a different god had replaced him, a god with less attractive characteristics. Dionysus “established a festive and cheerful worship, while the Jewish religion is tasteless and mean.” According to Tacitus some of the old Israelite customs “were founded in honour of Dionysus”. Coins found near Gaza, dating from the 5th century B.C.E. show Dionysus on one side, and on the other his opposite the bearded figure labeled YHWH – Yahweh.
Alain Danielou notes the numerous similarities between Dionysus and Jesus:
The Christian myths appear to be closely linked to those of Dionysus. Jesus, like Skanda or Dionysus, is the son of the Father, of Zeus. He has no wife. The goddess-mother alone finds her place next to him. He is surrounded by his faithful, his bhaktas, who are of the people, fishermen. His teaching is addressed to the humble and the outcast. He welcomes prostitutes and those who are persecuted. His rite is sacrifice. It is in the Orphic tradition that the passion and resurrection of Dionysus occupy a central position. It is through Orphism that many of Dionysus’ “miracles” were attributed to Jesus. Several aspects of the Orphic legend of Dionysus are to be found in the life of Jesus. The parallel between the death and resurrection of the god and of Christ is self-evident.
The myths and symbols tied to the birth of Christ, to his baptism, his following, his entry into Jerusalem on an ass, the Last Supper (banquet and sacrificial rite), his Passion, death and resurrection, the dates and nature of the various feast days, his power of healing and of changing water into wine, inevitably evoke Dionysiac precedents.8
The self-sacrifice of Christ has often been compared to that of Tammuz or Adonis but most resembles the young man, the fairest and the best, who sacrificed himself to absolve his people of their sins. This was part of the earliest sun-worship.9
We find the same inner message in the stories of the Egyptian Osiris and the Greek Dionysos, in the saga of Tammuz of Mesopotamia. Elements of which are later reflected in the Gospel accounts of Jesus.
Tammuz is the Babylonian version of the ancient Sumerian saviour-god Dumuzi, the “only-begotten Son”. Tammuz is a beautiful youth whose cyclical death and rebirth are associated with the cycles of nature. During summer Tammuz is united in love with his sister/mother Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven. At the end of summer Tammuz dies, and the heart-broken Ishtar goes down to Hades to rescue him. With his rescue he is reborn in the upper Realm of Light. He is called Healer, Saviour, and Heavenly Shepherd.
Tammuz’s death and descent into Hades symbolises his fall into the spiritual darkness of the physical world. He is rescued from this gloomy realm by Ishtar, Heavenly Wisdom, symbolising his spiritual self or True Being. When Tammuz dies, he falls into a pit (Hades), and Ishtar (representing both the Divine Spirit and his spirit) mourns his fall and entrapment:
The lord is exposed to the woe in the pit…
My heart is sending wailing of flute to the steppe,
to the place where the strong one is chained,
to the place of the chains of Tammuz,
to the lamb which is given in the power of the nether world…
The Gospels relate the women coming to Jesus’ tomb were the first to see the risen Lord. Centuries before, women lamented the slain Tammuz, the sacrificial lamb, with the cry:
Why have they slain him, him of the plains?
The Shepherd, the Man of Wisdom,
the Man of Sorrow why have they slain?
The Lord, the Shepherd of the fold lives no more,
the spouse of the Queen of Heaven lives no more.
The women of Jerusalem still wept for Tammuz at the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Isaiah’s day and according to the Church Father Jerome he had a sacred grove at Bethlehem. The Hebrew prophets, in their preaching of the worship of Yahweh, condemned the popular cult of Tammuz. But this did not stop elements of the older tradition being incorporated into Israelite religion and later Christianity.
Happy is the man who is beloved of the gods. Happy is he who, instructed in the divine rites, sanctifies his life, whose soul makes its way to the mountains, for he will experience raptures by virtue of the holy purification.10
Dr. Martin A. Larson says that “Attis became one of the most potent saviour gods of the ancient world, and left his heavy imprint upon Christianity.” Attis, like Jesus the Christ, was a personification of the Solar Kristos. The early Christian theologian Arnobius writes, “When we name Attis… we mean and speak of the sun.” An ancient Roman inscription declared: “To Attis the Most High God who holds the universe together.”
The ancient Greeks envisioned the youthful virgin-born Attis as a solar saviour deity holding within himself “the incorporeal cause of the forms that are embodied in matter.” Attis had descended “even unto our earth… from the stars” so that he might, through self-sacrifice, teach mortals to prepare themselves for that spiritual journey that would bring them to the celestial throne. It was the purpose and destiny of Attis to demonstrate that “in all things the conversion to what is higher [spiritual development] produces more power… than the inclination to what is lower [carnal reproduction].” Following his act of self-sacrifice, Attis was “led upwards as though from our earth” to resume again “his ancient scepter.” The Roman Emperor Julian (332-363) wrote “the trumpet sounds for Attis and for all of us who flew down from heaven and fell to earth.” Attis, the Solar Kristos, is “the leader of all the tribes of divine beings”.
The Gnostic Secret School known as the Naassenes identified Attis with Jesus the Christ, whose mission it was to show the way to pass “from the material condition… to the eternal essence.” The Naassenes insisted that if an individual wished to become enlightened and return to the Realm of Light at death (rather than be reincarnated) he or she must undergo a process by which they might become “neither male nor female, but a new creature… who reunites the two sexes [the primal androgynous Adamic state].” A Naassene poem praising Attis shows how the ancients envisioned the Solar Kristos embodied in numerous local deities and represented in an array of forms:
Whether [Thou art of] the race of Saturn or happy Jupiter, or mighty Rhea, Hail Attis, gloomy mutilation of Rhea. Assyrians style thee thrice-longed-for Adonis, and the whole of Egypt [calls thee] Osiris, celestial horn of the Moon; Greeks denominate [thee] Wisdom; Samothracians, venerable Adam; Haemonians, Corybas; and the Phrygians [name thee] at one time Papa, at another time Corpse, or God… or green Ear of Corn that has been reaped.
Jesus the Christ
That the Christos represents the solar power reverenced by every nation of antiquity cannot be controverted. If Jesus revealed the nature and purpose of this solar power under the name and personality of Christos, thereby giving to this abstract power the attributes of a god-man, He but followed a precedent set by all previous World-Teachers. This god-man, thus endowed with all the qualities of Deity, signifies the latent divinity in every man. Mortal man achieves deification only through at-one-ment with this divine Self. Union with the immortal Self constitutes immortality, and he who finds his true Self is therefore “saved.” This Christos, or divine man in man, is man’s real hope of salvation – the living Mediator between abstract Deity and mortal humankind. As Atys, Adonis, Bacchus, and Orpheus in all likelihood were originally illumined men who later were confused with the symbolic personages whom they created as personifications of this divine power, so Jesus has been confused with the Christos, or god-man, whose wonders He preached. Since the Christos was the god-man imprisoned in every creature, it was the first duty of the initiate to liberate, or “resurrect” this Eternal One within himself. He who attained reunion with his Christos was consequently termed a Christian, or Christened, man.11
Among the Essenes, a Kristos/Christos (Anointed One) was a priest, specifically designated as the Redeemer. Among the Slavic peoples, Kristos or Krstnik meant a sacrificial hero. The Khlysts, a 17th century Russian Gnostic community, taught that every man and woman was potentially capable of embodying the Krist/Christos, the Divine Word (Logos) of the Father.
The true “Christ Principle,” the glorified Spirit of Supreme Truth, is universal. The Solar Kristos, embodied in Jesus and all the saviours and Avatars of the past, cannot be monopolised by any one person or group. The Kristos, the only genuine Christ, cannot be confined to any one creed or sect. The name “Christ” has been used in a manner so intolerant and dogmatic that Christianity is the religion of arrogance and ignorance. This is why many Gnostic Teachers prefer to use the spelling Kristos as opposed to the popular title Christ that is today applied to a fictionalised, corporal, carnalised Jesus of the Churches.
Few Christians understand the ageless Mystery of the Kristos. The real truth of Krist is revealed by Divine Wisdom or Gnosis, which concerns itself with the essential reality behind the fleeting appearances of objects in nature.
The Christian sacred books, especially the Gospels, Acts and Epistles contain fragments of Gnostic wisdom, very similar to the pre-Christian Mysteries of initiation. It is the corrupted, interpolated passages and distorted literalist presentation that makes of the Bible a book of falsehoods. The New Testament Gospels were not written in the time of the Galilean Master Jesus, some of the books compiled as late as the 2nd century C.E. The Nazarene writers of the Sayings or Logia of Jesus the Christ, of which the Gospels are a corrupted later compilation, knew the Truth, but those who came after them had only dogma and a quest for power. The Gnostic Nazarenes experienced the living spirit of the teachings of Jesus the Christ. The Church Fathers, lacking the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, could only grasp a very materialised and disfigured version of the story of Jesus.
The early Gnostics viewed the drama of the New Testament crucifixion – regardless of history – as fundamentally an allegorical and philosophical symbol. As always the Gnostics look beyond mere words to connect with the timeless inner message. Read in their literal, dead letter meaning, the four gospels appear to the honest inquirer as simply slightly altered versions of the pre-Christian pagan Mysteries. This is because the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection reflect the stories associated with previous manifestations of the Solar Kristos such Attis, Adonis, Tammuz, Osiris, Mithra and Dionysus.
The early Gnostic Christians saw the Christ of the Gospels as a Manifestor and Revealer of the Unknown Father. A dozen times, according to Matthew, Jesus the Christ calls the Supreme Lord, “My Father.” In St. John’s Gospel, the Christ says, “I and my Father are one.” “I am come in my Father’s name.” “My Father hath sent me.” “I am in my Father.” Etc.
The Galilean Master Yeshua (Jesus/Jason/Joshua) the Essene, who studied the Ancient Mysteries in Egypt, became one with the heavenly Logos or Solar Kristos at his baptism. This is why within the Gospels we find a mixture of Essene sayings, including direct quotations from Essene scriptures, together with a retelling in exoteric language of age old mysteries. Along the way we also encounter numerous interpolations and revisions, the work of later Church scribes. It is this Jesus the Christ, the Essene Master, who is credited as the inspirer of the first Nazarene communities that existed long before the era called ‘Christian’. They are the only original Christ-ians.
But these separated communities, who were in the world but definitely not of the world, had their roots in the ancient Mystery schools, in the Mystic Brotherhoods of Egypt, and in the Essene Order. Many of the virtues associated with the Gospel Jesus and His followers were already present in the Essene communities. According to Philo Judaeus:
Three things regulate all they learn and do – viz., love to God, love of virtue, love for man. A proof of the first is the matchless sanctity of their entire life, their fear of oaths and lies, and the conviction that God is only the originator of good, never of evil. They show their love of virtue by their indifference to gain, glory, and pleasure; by their temperance, perseverance, simplicity, absence of wants, humility, faithfulness, and straightforwardness. They exemplify their love for their fellow-creatures by kindness, absence of pretensions, and lastly by the community of goods.
This helps us to appreciate the environment that gave birth to and nurtured the Nazarene communities and Gnostic schools. It is worth noting that in the Gospel of Matthew there are references to a widespread secret network that supported the disciples of the Master Jesus. Wherever they went in the land of Palestine they encountered the ‘worthy’, the ‘faithful’, or the ‘Brethren of the Lord’. “Peace be with you!” appears to have been the greeting or pass-word of the Essenes, the disciples of Jesus, and also of the Nazarenes.
The mystery of the Kristos, presented in the life and words of Jesus, was identical with that which had been communicated to those who are ‘worthy’ since the dawn of time. From the Gospel according to Luke, we learn that the worthy are those who were initiated into the Mysteries or Truths of the Gnosis, and who were accounted worthy to attain that resurrection from the dead in this life. They were those who knew they could die no more. In other words, they are those initiates who strive to live the higher life and to attain spiritual illumination. Such individuals seek to realise the Krist within. This resurrection is the birthright of every human being endowed with soul and spirit. Such an individual becomes, and is a Christ-Man, a Kristed One, and a true Christ-ian.
The Church Father Clement of Alexandria was familiar with the Mysteries of the kingdom preserved by the Nazarenes. He wrote:
That man with whom the Logos dwells… is made like God and is beautiful… [T]hat man becomes God, for God so wills it…. [T]he Logos of God became man that from man you might learn how man may become God.
This doctrine of deification was at the core of the pre-Christian Mysteries. The distinction between men and gods was that men died and gods did not. Thus, the object of the Mysteries was to become immortal, to become one with the Solar Krist. The initiates of Mithra declared, “I am thou and thou art I,” that is the same as Christ’s admonition, “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4).
The Christians later perverted this sacred truth by declaring the Man Jesus to be the only Christ, the only expression of the Divine Logos, the one Son of the Father, and even the eternal God in the flesh. Belief in the Man Jesus as the Messiah and Anointed One was taught by His first disciples, but adoration of Jesus as the one eternal God come in the flesh was not taught at all. Even in the heavily edited New Testament Gospels the words ascribed to Jesus are plain. Whenever occasion arose, the Man Jesus asserted his inferiority to the Eternal Father.
He made himself inferior in knowledge when he said that of the day and hour of the day of judgment no one knew, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son; no one except the Father (Mark 13:32). He made himself inferior in power when he said that seats on his right hand and on his left in the kingdom of heaven were not his to give (Mark 10). He made himself inferior in virtue when he requested a certain man not to address him as “Good Master,” for there was none good but God (Mark 10:18).
Should there be any further doubt about the nature of the Man Jesus, one only has to contemplate the words of his prayer at Gethsemane. “All things are possible unto thee,” imply that all things were not possible to him, while its conclusion “not what I will, but what thou wilt,” indicates submission to a superior power (Mark 14:36).
The Gospel of Mark says not a word about Bethlehem or a miraculous birth. The Nazarene community at Jerusalem to which Mary and the brothers of Jesus belonged (Acts 1:14), and over which, James presided, knew nothing of the much-later Church doctrine of Jesus as “the one God come in human form”.
The Nazarenes, faithful to the tradition of the apostles, saw Jesus as a Man, like other men, but that he was good and virtuous. The Gnostic Nazarene community established by the Master Teacher Cerinthus said Jesus was born altogether as other men are, but he excelled all men in virtue, knowledge and wisdom. At the time of his baptism, the Divine Word, the eternal Christ – Kristos – came upon him symbolised by a dove, and left him at the time of his crucifixion. This was also the position of St. Paul when he wrote how the heavenly Christ “made himself of no reputation” in coming to earth. The Christ as the Divine Word was far more significant to the disciples than Jesus as a flesh and blood being.
The virulently anti-Gnostic Catholic Church Father Irenaeus, speaking of the Nazarene doctrine taught by Cerinthus, says:
He represents Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary, according to the ordinary course of human generation, and not as having been born of a virgin. He believed nevertheless that he was more righteous, prudent and wise than most men, and that the Christ descended upon, and entered into him, at the time of his baptism.
The Nazarene doctrine, as propounded by Cerinthus, was that Jesus was a mortal, but as the best and wisest of the human race, he was selected as the worthy instrument to restore upon earth the authentic knowledge of the true and supreme Deity. When he was baptised – an outward symbol of inner transformation – in the Jordan, and not till then, he became more than man. At that time, the Solar Kristos, the Logos (Word) of the Father, the First Emanation from the Throne of Light, the Crown Prince of God, descended on Jesus symbolised by a dove, to inhabit his mind, and direct his actions during the allotted period of his ministry.
The Solar Kristos has been made known by various Anointed Ones and Avatars since the dawn of time. In His earthly ministry Jesus the Christ taught the Path of Transformation, the way to self-mastery and spiritual enlightenment. At the crucifixion, the spirit and blood of Jesus were envisioned by the Nazarenes as having enlivened the earth, permeating it with His consciousness and the energy of His Being. Jesus’ life-experience became fused with the soul of the planet. They believed that through the communion rite they were imbued with the transcendent abilities of the Solar Krist, following in the footsteps of the Elder Brother. Jesus’ sacrifice made possible and guaranteed limitless potential attainment to the true Christ-ian disciple. When he was delivered into the hands of his enemies, the Kristos departed him and returned to the Realm of Light.
Jesus the Christ declares in the Gospel of John, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Here the Christ is referring to the birth from above, spiritual illumination. He who finds Kristos within himself and recognises it as his only Way becomes a follower of the Solar Krist/Christ. Kristos or the Christ consciousness is the realisation of the divine spirit within. To achieve the Kristos condition, one has to live in Christ, to obliterate one’s limited, conditioned personality and it’s separateness from the Eternal Father, the Absolute. Only by realising the divine spark within can one be united with the Life and Light of the Solar Kristos. In the words of Dr. Martin Larson:
Each man is torn between the two contrary natures in his members, which always strive for mastery. But this conflict cannot end in victory for the higher without direct aid from the God of Light. The advent of Christ is the historic fact which makes the triumph for the spiritual aspect possible. God’s Nous descended upon the entirely human Jesus at His baptism; and He therefore proclaimed salvation to all those who are spiritual or will strive to become so.12
Clearly there is a difference between the Man Jesus and the transcendent Christ/Krist revealed in the Gospels and in all the legends of the great Avatars and Saviours. Today, not possessing the key of Divine Wisdom, the Christian churches worship a man-made, carnalised Jesus. One early Gnostic school masterly illustrated the difference between the Cosmic Christ and the Man Jesus in the following account:
Many of his [Jesus’] disciples did not recognise the descent of Christ into him; but when Christ descended into Jesus, then he began to work miracles and to heal and to proclaim the unknown Father and to confess himself openly as the Son of the First Man.
At the crucifixion the Christ left Jesus but we are told:
Christ did not forget what was his own, but from above sent into him a certain power which raised him in a body which was both psychic and spiritual; the worldly elements remained in the world. When the disciples saw that the transformed Jesus had risen again, they did not recognise him [Luke 24:34], nor did they recognise the Christ by whose grace he rose from the dead. And the greatest error of the disciples was this, that they thought he rose in a worldly [material] body, and did not know that “flesh and blood do not attain to the kingdom of God” [1 Cor. 15:50]. The descent and ascent of the Christ is confirmed by the fact that the disciples say that Jesus did nothing remarkable either before the baptism or after the resurrection. They are ignorant of the union of Jesus with the Christ… Jesus remained for eighteen months after the resurrection and from the perception which descended into him learned this teaching which is manifest. He taught these things to a few of his disciples who, he knew, could receive [Matt. 19:11] such great mysteries [Matt. 13:11], and thus was taken up into Heaven.
The Gnostic Master Teacher Marcion (C.E. 85-160), in response to the corruption being advanced in the name of the Christ, established his own community early in the 2nd century. He denounced as fraudulent the notion that the Christ referred exclusively to a Man of flesh and blood. The Solar Krist has no genealogy or Jewish line of descent, no earthly mother, no mundane birthplace or human birth. Marcion preached that throughout human history the Supreme God, the Lord of Light and Love, sent His Word (Logos) to every tribe and nation. Thus the Solar Kristos manifested in the Messengers of Light who brought suffering humanity saving knowledge of their true origin, revealing the Heavenly Father. Marcion exposed the materialist – later Catholic – Christians who imagined that the Christ had risen in a physical body, not knowing that “flesh and blood do not attain to the kingdom of God.”
Gerald Massey offers the following thoughts on the gulf between ‘Historic Christianity’ (from which modern day Christianity arose, be it Protestant or Catholic) and the Gnostic Nazarenes:
Historic Christianity originated with turning the Gnostic and Esoteric teachings inside out and externalising the mythical allegory in a personal human history. All that was interior with the knowers [Gnostics] was made objective; all that was spiritual in significance was embodied to be made palpable for the ignorant. A corporeal Christ was substituted for the trans-corporeal man – a Christ whose advent was without, instead of the one that must be evolved within – a personal Saviour who died for all, instead of the Christ that was the living spirit working within all. It was remarked by Augustine that the Gnostics “promised eternal life to anybody” – that is, with the soul of man was an eternal principle, and the resurrection was not cunningly reserved for the elect who accepted the Historic belief. The Gnostic claimed to be illuminated by the presence of the Christ within; the Christian, according to Justin, by the name of the Christ without.13
The story of the Christ, the Solar Kristos, is not limited to physical or historical events. The story of Jesus the Christ in the Gospels, complete with its miracles, is not to be understood as mere mundane history. It is a humanised retelling of a spiritual reality of the interior life.
The cosmic message in the legends of Attis, Osiris, Dionysus, Tammuz, Mithra – indeed all the saviours of antiquity – find a dramatic restatement and fulfillment in the Gnostic Revealer Jesus the Christ. What counts in the various stories of divine incarnations are the inherent principles and not the legends with which they are surrounded in order to make them more readily understood. It is of no importance that these stories are legion, differing from one region to another. We should not lose sight of the fact that such accounts are only there to make abstract ideas and universal realities more comprehensible. To attribute to Jesus the Christ the miracles and legends of the saviour deity Dionysus does not distract from His message, but serves to make His divine nature more easily understood. A cosmic reality, an eternal symbol, is behind all the historical facts and the legends associated with Jesus the Christ. Jesus embodied the Solar Kristos and came to rescue the sparks of Light and show the way back home. He taught man how to resurrect the Krist within and be reunited with the unknown Father.
A Gnostic scripture, the Apocryphon of John, compiled in the 2nd century and discovered in 1945 near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, offers a revelation of the cosmic Christ. The writer tells how the Christ appeared to the disciples in multiple forms:
Behold, the [heavens opened and the whole creation [which is] below heaven shone and [the world] was shaken. [I was afraid, and behold I] saw in the light [a youth who stood] by me. While I looked [at him he became] like an old man. And he [changed his] likeness (again) becoming like a servant. There was [not a plurality] before me, but there was a [likeness] with multiple forms in the light, and the [likeness] appeared through each other, [and] the likeness had three forms.
He said to me, John, John, why do you doubt, or why [are you] afraid? You are not unfamiliar with this image, are you? – that is, do not [be] timid! – I am the one who is [with you] always. I [am the Father], I am the Mother, I am the Son. I am the undefiled and incorruptible one.14
In celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ we worship the Solar Kristos who has come to earth in numerous embodiments to deliver the eternal message of liberation. Hail the Solar Krist!
Contributed by Universal Life Gnostic Fellowship (Australia), an extended version of the original article that appeared in New Dawn 22 (Nov-Dec-Jan 1993/1994) entitled “The Mystery of Christian Origins”. For further information visit www.gnostic.info.
1. C.W. King, Gnostics & Their Remains
2. H. Jeanmaire, Dionysos
3. James Wasserman, Art and Symbols of the Occult
4. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion
5. Dr. Martin A. Larson, The Story of Christian Origins
6. Pyramid Texts, 1004
7. Martin A. Larson, The Story of Christian Origins
8. Alain Danielou, Gods of Love and Ecstasy
9. James Bailey, The God-Kings & The Titans
10. Euripedes, The Suppliants, 72
11. Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages
12. Dr. Martin Larson, The Story of Christian Origins
13. Gerald Massey’s Lectures
14. Apocryphon of John
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