A Queen Dethroned

Chapter XIV

Nor immediately apropos to the theme of Paul’s silence, but closely cognate to the broad implications of Bacon’s position as above set forth, and of great general interest in relation to the vital changes in early Christianity which affect the study, is a statement from the Yale theologian on page 230 of Jesus and Paul, to the effect that it has been credibly estimated that Christianity lost one half of its following to Marcion and other Gnostic "heretics" bent on divorcing it from its Jewish affiliations and making it over in the true likeness of a Hellenic Mystery cult of personal redemption. Mead asserts, too, that the great Marcionite movement had cut Christianity entirely apart from Judaism. Valentinus tried with some modest success to harmonize the two elements. This datum as to the Marcionite invasion into the ranks of Christianity must be considered a fairly true estimate. Mosheim also says that Origen "had introduced the Academy"--Orphic-Platonic esotericism--entire into the fabric of Christian theology. Augustine a little later came from sitting at the feet of Plotinus, and, previously tinged with Manichaeism, introduced the Plotinic-Platonic doctrine of the "three fundamental hypostases" into Christianity from early Jewish popular exoteric tendencies over to an alignment of doctrine with the most enlightened philosophic wisdom of ancient days. It represented an effort on the part of the more illumined elements, the real intellectual leaders, who had affiliated with the movement perhaps from the motive of saving the strong popular surge of religious ferment from swinging completely out of hand and degenerating into exoteric rubbish. The danger of the deteriorization of high spiritual religion into vulgar misrepresentation of truth, which only the most clear-sighted sagacity can envision and guard against, is always great. But it was never so acutely crucial as in the very epoch under review. It seems likely that there was a lessened tone of spiritual character and perhaps some moral laxity in the personnel of the Mysteries, provoking some wide-spread disgust. Likely also was it that resentment and impatience prevailed among the masses over the exclusiveness of the Mystery cults, and there probably was a growing desire on the part of the people to break down the barriers of secrecy and spread the teachings abroad to the world. Discerning that it was both impossible and undesirable to resist this sweep, which represented grave danger to the inner teachings, but also perhaps feeling some sympathy with it, the philosophical element allied itself with the movement, seeking to direct its currents into safe channels. Almost every great popular movement--like the French Revolution--engages at its inception the interest and support of idealists. Later on, when more grossly human interests surge to the surface and find expression, the idealists are disappointed and disillusioned and drop out. A typical example of this in an individual case is the poet Wordsworth in connection with the French Revolution. The philosophic thinkers who joined the early Christian movement later either dropped out or were forced out by the overwhelming surge of crude exotericism that made hash of the doctrines after two and a half or three centuries. Origen was in particular posthumously excommunicated and anathematized three hundred years after his death for having introduced into the theology the great Oriental doctrine of rebirth or reincarnation.

The high-minded endeavor of the philosophic Christian leaders to hold Christianity up to the superior levels of sage wisdom and interior insight, could it have held its own, is the thing that would in truth have saved the religion of Christos. Yet this most salutary and enlightened trend in leadership and following, Pauline and not Petrine, is the influence that the theologians say Christianity was lucky to escape. In the ironical long and short of the matter, the claim is that Christianity was saved from a worse fate than its now known despicable record of centuries, by following a trend that left every one of its doctrines void of true or intelligible meaning and introduced chaos into every interpretation. We are asked to believe that another trend that would have retained the true inner essence of vital significance, to the eternal enlightenment of mankind, would have represented a great and catastrophic danger to the faith. If this does not reveal the poverty of exegetical and interpretative insight on the part of Christian theologians, we would not know how otherwise to read it.

Brief notice must be taken and rebuttal made of an excerpt from Dr. Morgan quoted by Bacon. He says that the Hellenistic conception of fellowship with God is intellectual and mystical rather than moral, a participation in divine omniscience and immortality by enlightenment or ritual. The Church, on the moral side, insists on conduct. This is one of those fine-spun differentiations that, to have the force intended, must slur the highest tenets and accredited principles of Christianity itself. To hit at Hellenistic philosophy, elements of its doctrine or practice must be belittled. But the odd thing is that these same elements condemned in Hellenism turn out to be influences that have been lauded and glorified in Christianity itself. What Christian Church would not feel itself highly blessed to know that its ministry brought to its people the most intimate mystical fellowship with God? The sad thing to note is that if it does not attain that much of victory, it also does not attain the straight moral purity advertised as more distinctly a normal Christian performance. Forsooth the attainment of communion with God in the inner sanctum of conscience and character must be decried as second rate performance because it is Greek and not distinctively Christian. It is a weird logic that has to defend the probity of moral conduct by slandering the sanctity or sincerity of mystical and intellectual fellowship with God. Their efforts to translate history into the meaning they wish to give it force them into the necessity of condemning fellowship with God as evil. All this bespeaks the reduction of Christian dialectic to a one-sided belittlement of everything non-Christian. Even the highest elevations of the human soul in aspiration for union with God must be written down as dangerous, because Greek rational religion inculcated them first.

One other venting of Christian antipathy to the lofty systems of pagan religion is worth closer scanning, as it is found expressed in another passage from Bacon (247). After saying that he had made special effort in his survey of the fourth Gospel to show its completely Pauline character, he declares that Gentile Christianity faced its critical hour forty years after Paul’s death when the churches of Asia lay between the Scylla of reaction toward Jewish legalism and the Charybdis of Gnostic theosophy. That the stream of Christian development was able to take a clear and open course by preaching to the world the spiritual Christ of St. Paul and interfusing also into the teaching of Jesus the Pauline doctrine of grace, is owing to the Ephesian evangelist. If this so great boon came to Christianity through Paul’s influence, again it must be asked: why the universal orthodox judgment that the adherence to Paul’s type of religion would have wrecked Christianity? Again it is difficult for the laymen to understand how Paul’s contribution both saved Christianity and threatened it with obliteration.

The later years of development in the early Church, says Bacon, were marked by the incoming of grievous wolves not sparing the flock, by a teaching of Anti-Christ, threatening to sweep away the whole Church from its relation to the historical Jesus. The Asiatic wing of the Church was in danger of forsaking the way of approach to God by moral self-dedication in the spirit of love and taking its course along the dangerous path of Gnosis. By what license or chicanery of logic a Christian theologian can stigmatize the inner realizations of divine grace and divine presence aspired to (and often, apparently, attained) in the practice of Gnostic Christianity as Anti-Christ, is not clear either on the surface or in the depths of the situation. The realization of inner sanctification is apparently to be belittled or stigmatized because it was not attained with the help of the doctrine of a personal Jesus. And how it can be contended that a Gnostic’s achievement of divine grace is Anti-Christ and spurious, while the same realization by a Christian saint is the legitimate divine unction, can not readily be apprehended. What can all this narrow logic-chopping mean but that Christian jealousy of its own asserted virtues has reduced its apologists to the childish maneuver of declaring the Christ it proclaims as the only true one, and the Christ non-Christians cultivate as a false one? The presence of such a motive is at hand in the egregiously overweening presumptions on which the whole Christian missionary movement was based. "We have the only true religion, because we alone have the true Christ," was the cry that accompanied the attempt to force Christianity willy-nilly upon all the rest of mankind. It took a hundred years of pretty nearly flat failure to open the zeal-blinded eyes of vaunting Christians to the fact that other religions had found ways to reach the true Christ within the heart.

If it is true that Christianity would have been ruined by following "the delusive path of Gnosis," it should be expected that those who for centuries did follow that path would show in their lives and fate the awful consequences of having lived this baneful doctrine. The Gnostics themselves, it is to be presumed, must have presented in their history the evil results of the system. What did the acceptance of Anti-Christ do to them, as a horrible example of false teaching? Surely those who devoted their lives to following such a pestiferous perversion of true doctrine must have given evidence of the disastrous effects of such a plague in their own lives. If it would have ruined Christians, surely it must be clear that it ruined its own devotees. Bacon and his fellow slanderers of Gnosticism have surely put themselves "out on a limb," which can be sawed off in quick order. For what do we find when we turn back to look at the Gnostics and their careers? Let the great and competent Gibbon answer for us (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I, p. 393): "The Gnostics were distinguished as the most polite, the most learned and the most wealthy of the Christian name." Mead and other scholars testify to the high character of the Gnostics.

And the modern Harnack is fair enough to say, in comment on Irenaeus’ strictures against the Gnostics, that these fine Christians have been severely misjudged. He writes:

"Owing to omissions and because no effort was made to understand his opponents, the sense of the by-no-means absurd speculations of the Gnostics has been ruined by the Church Father."

The great German exegetist adds this:

"According to Hippolytus (Philos., VI, 42), the followers of the Gnostic Marcus complained of the misrepresentations of their teaching by Irenaeus; the followers of our newly discovered book [the Akhmim Codex] could also have complained of the incomprehensible fashion in which Irenaeus had represented their teachings."

The time is ripe at last, after eighteen hundred years, to scotch this unfounded and unjust canard that Christian bigotry has kept alive against these highly intelligent and philosophic early Christians whom ignorance designated as heretics. There is nothing but an arrant Christian prejudice to support the Christian claim that the embracing of Gnostic religion by the early Church would have been calamitous. On the other side we have the clear verdict of that court of last appeal--history--that Gnosticism, if it did not itself produce the most excellent type of Christians, was produced and held by them. Its unimpeachable testimony gives the lie direct to this habitual slander of the splendid protagonists of one of the world’s noblest religious enterprises. Christians themselves would have their eyes opened upon a new perspective of historical values in the appraisal of their own faith if they would scan the verifiable item of history that has perpetually been held from their knowledge, the fact that in the early proscription of "heretics" by the orthodox party in the Church, it was a case of the worst elements pronouncing judgment against the best, exoteric blindness striking as esoteric insight, a fury of zealotry tramping down calm balance of philosophy. It was Christianity at its worst smothering Christianity at its best. To say this today is open lèse majesté against official attitude, but it happens to be on the line of truth. We are asked to believe that Christianity found a salvation, still apostrophized in spite of a record of historic failure, by rejecting the well-grounded religious systematism of the most cultured, intelligent and philosophical class of the third century, who at least had inward discernment adequate to the comprehension of a purely spiritual Christos, and adopting in place of it the crass literalized theological melange of a rabble of the lowest grades of intelligence who were so completely incapable of grasping the spiritual conception of immanent divinity in man that the Church was compelled to feed them on the fiction of the Christ as a living man. Celsus and others have testified that the orthodoxy of the time made its appeal only to the most abject in mind and social station in the Roman Empire. Indeed Celsus tells us that it would tolerate no persons of learning and intelligence in its fold. He says it reached out after only the most wretched and "god-forsaken." It spurned the counsels of philosophy and erudition. Libraries and learning were anathema in its eyes, that in rejecting the Gnosis as heresy, the ignorant leadership of the early institution condemned Christianity to ages of error, blindness and fateful miscarriage of true religion, with a record of inhumanity that crushes the human spirit merely to read it. If this was the salvation from the dreadful menace of Gnosticism, Christianity had better not been saved.

And how is all this impeachment of Gnostic Christianity to be held consistent with a summary statement made by Bacon--one with which there can be ready accord--that Jesus and Paul were the champions of the only gospel that has real promise for our struggling world? How can it be both safe and salutary for the world to pin its faith to a Pauline preachment now, if the cause of the true religion saved itself by turning its back to Paul and its face to Peter long ago? This makes Paul both a menace and the bearer of salvation at the same time. The purpose in laying stress on such a point as this is to show up the precarious and unsound nature of whole volumes of the sort of critical Christian apologetic, Bible analysis and academic investigation in this field that has been under discussion here. One must ask what becomes of the tedious hair-weighing lucubrations of eminent theologians speculating on the Pauline authorship of certain New Testament books, when other schools of thought just as plausibly demonstrate that Paul did not even write the Epistles attributed to him. It all points to one thing clearly,--the uncertain authorship of all the material of the scriptures and the shaky status of all determinations arrived at concerning it. Inasmuch as the whole case for the historicity of Jesus rests upon just such insecure bases, occasion is taken here to introduce some of the available testimony of scholars on the question of the Pauline authorship of the books assigned to him in the canon.

In his Did Jesus Live 100 Years B.C.? (p. 38) Mead cites the authority of a distinguished Dutch scholar, Van Manen, to whom had been assigned the writing of the article on Paul in Hastings’ Dictionary. What so eminent a specialist has to say on the subject of Paul’s literary work must weigh with considerable force on opinion. Says Mead:

"Van Manen emphatically repudiates the genuineness not only of the Pastoral, but of the whole of the rest of the Letters traditionally ascribed to Paul."

And Mead says this is of great moment, since it is not the opinion of an isolated scholar, but the outcome of the studies of a school. Van Manen himself is definite in his statements:

"With respect to the canonical Pauline Epistles, the later criticism here under consideration has learned to recognize that they are none of them by Paul; neither fourteen, nor thirteen, nor nine or ten, nor seven or eight, nor yet even the four so long ‘universally’ regarded as unassailable."

Mead follows with this comment:

"Van Manen is unable any longer in all simplicity to hold by the canonical Acts and Epistles, or even to the Epistles solely, or yet to a selection of them. The conclusion it has to reckon with is this: (a) that we possess no Epistles of Paul; that the writings which bear his name are pseudepigrapha containing seemingly historical data from the life and labors of the Apostle, which nevertheless must not be accepted as correct without clear examination and are probably, at least for the most part, borrowed from the ‘Acts of Paul,’ which also underlie our canonical book of Acts. (b) Still less does the Acts of the Apostles give us, however incompletely, an absolutely historical narrative of Paul’s career; what it gives is a variety of narratives concerning him differing in their dates and also in respect to the influences under which they were written."

Important is Van Manen’s statement that the Paulinism of the lost Acts of Paul and of the canonical Epistles of Paul, is not the "theology" or the "system" of the historical Paul, although it ultimately came to be, and in most quarters still is, identified with it. "It is the later development of a school, or, if the expression is preferred, of a circle, of progressive believers who named themselves after Paul and placed themselves as it were under his aegis." This would not be an inordinate supposition, by any means. Much of "Aristotle" is believed to have been written down by the students in the Academy. But it is of greater importance for us to be told that this group that "edited" the Pauline Epistles was, according to Van Manen, "among the Gnostic-heretics." If this be true--and its probability is very great--the tangle, confusion and logical rout of Bacon’s thesis are overwhelming. The whole structure of his argument falls down in a debacle of ruin. For having said that it was Paul (now declared by such an eminent scholar as Van Manen to be a group of Gnostics) who saved Christianity from popular superstition and Jewish legalism to flower out beyond his generation, and having denounced the Gnostics at the same time, he is by his own opinions thrust into the logically senseless and untenable position of denouncing the school and the influence that he has said saved the faith.

Mead quotes McClymont of Aberdeen, the conservative writer of the article The New Testament in Hastings’ Dictionary, who frankly states that the so-called Pastoral Lectures (I and II Timothy and Titus) "are distinguished from all others by their want of historical agreement with any period in St. Paul’s life as recorded in the book of Acts, and also by their strongly marked individuality alike in style and substance."

That there must be great strength in Van Manen’s view is attested by the data which show that the oldest witnesses to the existence of the Epistles are Basilides, Valentinus and Heracleon. Marcion is the first in time. And these men were all Gnostics. As we learn from Tertullian, traces are to be found of an authoritative group of Epistles of Paul. It is notable that Tertullian still calls Paul "the Apostle of heretics," and, addressing Marcion, speaks of Paul as "Your Apostle"! What do these little items intimate but that "Paul," whether as man or group, school or circle, was of the Gnostic persuasion if not indeed of the Gnostic party?

Van Manen dates his "Paul circle" about 120 A.D. and assigns 130-150 to the Acts. Justin Martyr, in the second century, knows nothing of the Acts, even when referring to Simon Magus, a reference which he could not have omitted had he known of Simon’s mention in that treatise, and one which all subsequent heresiologists triumphantly set in the foreground of their "refutations" of that famous "heretic" and impostor. Also there is no clear quotation from the Acts known till 177 A.D.

A matter that is full of meaning from every point of view and is especially corroborative of our position, is the postulation by Van Manen and indeed many others of the existence of a "common document" under or behind the Gospels. This represents the sanest approach or tentative in all textual Biblical investigation to what must be the genuine nub of explanation of sources, origins, context and authorship. The close similarity of three Gospels, or four, has never been interpreted in its clear implications. The explanatory theory was that one of the Evangelists wrote his document first and three others copied it--with variations. Weight of opinion settled upon Mark as the first-written text. Much more likely would it seem to be that all four were variant renderings of a hoary oral tradition, the first setting down of which on paper became the "common document" behind the four and all others--as there were many. Irenaeus told us a valuable thing--though it is known from other evidence--when he said that there was "a multitude of Gospels extant" in his day. Were facts exactly known, it is quite likely that some of the "other Gospels" considerably antedate the canonical four. There is no datum which proves that these four were the earliest. The air of the day was filled with Gospels, and common sense closes the door on every other thesis than the only one naturally assumable,--that they were all essays on the part of many writers to render the truest version of the great oral tradition. On every hand there were members of the several Mystery Brotherhoods, and one after another writer would be inspired to try his hand at transcribing portions of the memorized Mystery ritual, adding his own glosses and elucidations, omitting some sections of the great mystic drama, or some of the allegories and sayings, inserting others. Many scholars predicate the existence of the collections of the Sayings of the Lord, the origin of which it seems easy to attribute to the program of the Mystery ceremonial, where in each performance a large part of the typical drama of the descent and career of the Soul in incarnation, its "death," "burial," "crucifixion" and "resurrection" in and from the "tomb" of the fleshly body, consisted of an elaborate set of discourses which constituted the message, given orally, by the Messianic spiritual principle to mortals on earth. Since, as seen, the earth itself was the "Mount" both of crucifixion and of transfiguration, the discourse of the Christ character in the ritual came to be known as the Sermon on the Mount. Burton Scott Easton, in his book Christ in the Gospels, a quite erudite treatise, says it is silly to speculate on the geographical location of the "Mount" on which Jesus preached his discourse, as it is likely not to be taken in its physical or material sense at all. This is a welcome ray of light penetrating the gloom of theological obtuseness. The "Sayings" were the body of the verbal or declamatory interludes in the acted drama. The parables were other spoken specialties. From century to century at least a few innovations or novel features might be introduced in this or that country. Though all depicted the same mystery of the Incarnation, or the oblation of the Son (Sons) of God on the altar of fleshly humanity, the various national Mysteries such as those of Samothrace, of Phrygia, of Eleusis, of Bacchus, of Atys, of Osiris, Serapis, Isis, Aten and others were modifications in one of another pronounced direction. The Mysteries solve the great mystery of the Gospels. In whole or in part, the Gospels were just the written transcript of the great religious ritual-drama that had been almost the ancient world’s sole theme of sacred literature. The assumption on the part of Christian leaders at the start, and of Christian apologists ever since, that the great body of "Gospel" literature afloat in the middle East in the early centuries of our era--and quite obviously also before it--bore no relation to the total organic religious effort of the world before the time specifically marked "Christian," is on the face of it manifestly a stultification of both scholastic judgment and common sense. To attempt to place a specific date of the first origin, which date must at all costs be kept after the year 35 or 40 or 50 A.D.--of a body of literature that in either oral or written form must have had an immemorial antiquity behind it even then, must be seen at last as the prize folly of the ages. Unquestionably there was a "common document" behind the Gospels; and some of the hoary books of wisdom that survived the besom sweep of Christian destruction, give us inklings of its contents.

The endless aspersions cast on the Gnostics and their philosophy come with bad grace from the Christian side in view of the manifest advantage in standing, repute and character which accrued to the early Church from the adherence to it of various philosophical groups, however much some of them might still be adjudged "heretical" from the dogmatic point of view. It might profit the Gnostic traducers to turn back and read again what Mosheim has to say on the close intimacy between early Christianity and Greek philosophy. It must be noted in glancing at this material that the word "philosophy" had come to connote in the minds of third-century Christians a thing of reproach. It was to them the genius and embodiment of heresy. A faint idea of what inspired this antipathy to philosophy may be gained by putting it side by side with the recent American popular animus against the incursion of the "brain-trust" into the political arena, and the vulgar distrust of the cap and gown or the university degree. There is inevitable, no doubt, a submerged subtle resentment against the cult of intellectualism or pretensions thereto from the masses who lack it. When Christianity gathered in the lowest elements of the Roman population and propagated itself by catering to their level of hysterical religionism, the resentment against learning, genuine or superficial, was widespread and deep-seated. There are ever two vastly divergent planes on which the thing known as religion can deploy its psychologizations in human life, that of the intellect and that of the emotions. Like other religions, Christianity has swung its emphasis back and forth at different epochs between these two modes of the force. In the third century it was in the throes of a movement sweeping it from the intellectual aspect to the emotional. It brought, as we have seen, a hatred of books, learning, philosophy. But before the debacle became overwhelming and catastrophic philosophy had rendered the Church great service, which it is quite worth our while to recall and cogitate.

Mosheim (Vol. I, p. 341) analyzes the contribution and influence of Clement of Alexandria. Clement tells us, he writes, that he would not hand down Christian truth--that is, the truth about the Christos in its purely spiritual form--bare and unmixed, but associated with or rather veiled by and shrouded under the precepts of philosophy. For, according to Clement, the seeds of celestial wisdom communicated by Christos to the world lay hid in the philosophy of the Greeks, after the same manner as the succulent part of a nut lies concealed within the shell. For he appears to have been firmly persuaded that the essence of Greek philosophy was sound, wholesome and salutary, in fact that it was consonant with the spirit of Christian wisdom, but that it was reconditely veiled by a cloud of superficial images and fictions (which we know were the mythical and allegorical dramatizations) just as the kernel is hidden by the shell.

It should be the business of Christians then to endeavor industriously to penetrate this exoteric covering in order to discover the true relation between human and divine wisdom. The origin of Greek philosophy he attributes to Deity himself--would that such liberality had prevailed in the Christian hierarchy ever since!--but its transmission to humanity had to be through inferior agents. Philosophy was the way to eternal life before Christ himself came, and therefore he allows that the Grecian sages were saved. He reiterates that philosophy was divinely communicated to the Greeks. (Deity must have chosen Chaldea and Egypt as his agents of this communication, since Greek philosophy emanated from those lands.) It was given to Greece as a special testament or covenant, and it in fact constitutes the basis of that doctrine which the world has since received from Christos. Mere inner persuasion of the spirit must always be strengthened by that more accurate knowledge of religion which was to be acquired through the aid of philosophy.

This sagacious counsel of Clement the Church would have been wise to follow. But Mosheim goes on. With a view to accomplishing this desirable end, the Christians not only adopted the study of philosophy themselves, but became loud in their recommendation of it to others, declaring that the difference between Christianity and philosophy was but trifling. And it is most certain that this kind of conduct was so far productive of the desired effect as to cause not a few of the philosophers to enroll themselves under the Christian banner! Those who have perused the various works written by such of the ancient philosophers as had been induced to embrace Christianity, can not have failed to remark that the Christian discipline was regarded by all of them in no other light than as a certain mode of philosophizing. (Sad the day when this liberal spirit was replaced by that of dogmatic bigotry!)

Much light peeps out through obscuring veils in the next observation of Mosheim: the opinion was held by many that philosophy had been surreptitiously brought down from heaven and communicated to mankind by those angels whom, according to the ancients, a love of pleasure had induced to rebel against God and who descended to earth to unite their divine intellection with material bodies for the sake of the opportunity thus afforded pure spirits to enjoy the sense of life. (The real motive of "rebellion" was not hostility to God, but revolt against the inane passivity of the purely ideal world--vide Plato.) Clement himself seems to have adopted this opinion; and he is at pains to refute those who maintained that philosophy was a device of the evil one to deceive the human race. (This tell-tale hint gives positive evidence of the virulence of the proletarian revulsion against the rational wing of Christianity, which this work claims has never been given its due place in historical analysis.) Mosheim adds that from this position of Clement we may assume that the alleged origin of philosophy in diabolism had taken deep root among the multitude. Clement explains that Paul, in warning Christians to beware being spoiled by philosophy, obviously was speaking to the more perfect Christians, those "who had attained to the very heights of Gnostic intelligence," cautioning them that the philosophies were but an elementary discipline and should not be permitted to obscure the fuller realities of the Christian experience. It will readily be apparent how widely the views of modern commentators like Bacon, who indulge in the conventional derogation of the Gnostic Christians, diverge from the attitude of Clement, who had first-hand acquaintance with Gnostic philosophy. It is Clement, not Mosheim, who here equates "more perfect Christians" with "the very heights of Gnostic intelligence." Not only Gibbon, but Clement, makes the Gnostics the elite of the Christian personnel.

Mosheim adds that through Origen and Heraclas, pupils of Clement, and through pupils of Ammonias Saccas, who mostly entered the ministry, the love of philosophy became pretty generally diffused throughout a considerable portion of the Church. Porphyry says that Ammonias, a father of Neo-Platonism, had taken up Christianity and later renounced it. Eusebius says that he held to it to the end.

We can see in Clement’s--and no less in Origen’s--high regard for Greek philosophy, as being indeed the innermost kernel of rational Christianity, the sufficient answer to the indignant howl let out nearly two hundred years before Augustine’s day by that loud and blatant protagonist for doctrinal Christianity, Tertullian. That fierce zealot had written:

"What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? . . . Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic and dialectic composition!"

True enough, by the time Christianity had been adulterated and transformed to the thing of literal gibberish and pious emotionalism to which it had degenerated in Tertullian’s day, little enough of its pristine kinship with the lofty Platonism and the splendid eclecticism out of which it originally flowed was discernible. Also, hidden under esoteric veils as its highest teachings and revelations had been, of course the crassness of blunt exoteric vision could detect no connection with the primal system of arcane philosophy in which the deeper Christianity of Gnosticism had had its roots. But the sad mistake of the Church had been manifest in its propensity and its final historic choice to follow its blind and fanatic Tertullians instead of its clear-seeing philosophical Clements and Origens--and Dean Inges.

The supreme lesson that the whole historical episode should teach is that, in the words of Mosheim (I, 346) upon Clement’s attitude on the relation of basic philosophy to religion,

". . . our conviction of mind must necessarily be strengthened and confirmed by our acquiring that more accurate knowledge which was to be obtained through the assistance of philosophy."

Whenever the principles of this maxim are transgressed religion swings into channels of irrational behavior. In short religion is never safe until it is well grounded upon and stabilized in the rudiments of truth discovered by a profound study of philosophy. Christianity despised, then threw out its early sage philosophy, and a hideous historical sequel trailed its long shadow over the ensuing centuries.

It is too much to expect that attack and denunciation will not fall heavily upon the thesis here advanced that Christianity was a movement of ignorance against mental culture and rational philosophy. It is found, however, that Mosheim directly confirms this position. He goes on to describe the growth of a party in the Church which violently resented the encroachments of philosophical interests on the religion of "simple piety," and which feared that the spread of earthly philosophy (they must have forgotten that Clement said it came down from heaven) would injure the cause of celestial truth. The two parties, then, of the philosophical enthusiasts and the dour pietists, "opposed each other with the utmost warmth," the one contending for the utility and excellence of philosophical discussion and urging the teachers of the Church to demonstrate the harmony between religion and reason; the other regarding every species of human learning, and more particularly philosophy, with detestation and contempt, and urging the brethren to maintain the faith in all its genuine simplicity. And the theologians of the modern Church still exhort us to regard as our true Christianity the bewildering irrational literalisms of the Christian party--which is what Christian doctrine became in its "simplicity"--that held instruction, learning, reason and philosophy in utter detestation and contempt!

In the finale of his discussion of this point Bacon ends by asking the very pertinent question whether we may hold that there is still need of the Gospel as theology. He notes that in our time few pay homage any more to the fallen "queen of the sciences," as it was denominated in ancient days. The cry today is for religion without theology.

There is not room here to debate this question. It is of the utmost importance, however, that the sheer fact of theology’s having fallen into desuetude in Christianity should be fully analyzed and comprehended in its true significance. That the one religion vaunting itself to be the truest, highest, purest in world history should have shifted so far from its pristine constitutional character as to find itself in these latter times of world stress entirely out of unison with its original intellectual foundation, is attestation enough that great and vital divergence from basic principles must have occurred at some epoch. A long chapter would not suffice to detail the nature and immense import of the divergence that did assuredly occur. But however searchingly we may probe, it will come back in the end to the one fact that the far distant root-cause of Christianity’s defection from its own theology was generated back in that fatal third century, when the Gnostic and philosophic wing of the movement was amputated by the rising power of the tide of ignorant exotericism that flooded in upon the new religion at that time. It would be easy enough to trace the effects right up to the present aggravated scorn and neglect of theology. When the shift from allegory, myth and drama to history was made, the cryptic esoteric keys to the lofty and sublime inner meaning of theological formulations were lost. The doctrines of the faith were thus left standing as little more than empty shells, devoid of intelligibility and hence bereft of dynamic power and so, finally, powerless to engage interest. They became relegated to the cloister, the library shelves and the theological seminaries. They sank into the background and were covered by the dust of oblivion from the sheer fact that the cord of relevance and meaning by which they would have been tied to living human interests and problems had been cut, and they became a thing apart and out of meaningful relation to life itself. The Bible also, of which theology is the intellectual exposition of its meaning, shared largely the same neglect and ostracism out of living experience. No voice raised today would be a more desolate bleat in the wilderness of uncomprehending stolidity than one which proclaimed anew the need of theology as the solvent of the world’s gripping problems of this age. It would go utterly unheard, shouted down by the raucous chorus chanting the total inadequacy of theological doctrine to meet even the mental needs of our time. Yet the early Church proclaimed those doctrines as the saving truth of God for the guidance of men through this life. And the profound wisdom of the purest philosophy in history, the Greek, blessed these teachings with its sanction.

Perhaps nothing, then, will surpass the surprise of the Church itself when it hears the plaintive bleat for theology rise from this end of the field. For there is ample ground to support the forthright declaration that every single dogma, creed article and ceremonial item in the original Christianity was, and still is, the very truth, and likewise is knowledge critical for the practical needs of the world today! It is an unbelievable anomaly that while Christian theology is the saving truth of life, the religion that promulgated it has so weirdly perverted it into unintelligible gibberish that it no longer bears the stamp of either truth or utility, and the Church is itself forced to disown its own primal genius as unrelated to the problem of practical good. So recreant has the institution been to the teaching of truth it itself proclaimed in creed and scripture and theology that it must now turn and disavow its own organic constitution. The enormity of this dereliction must be seen as proportionate to the vastness of the change and degradation necessary to have brought it to pass. The prodigious extent of the transformation from sublime meaning to unconscionable jargon in Christian theology can be seen in all its appalling significance only by those who will make the comparison and see the shocking contrast between the present corruption of the doctrines and their transcendent majesty of import in the minds of the ancient sages who clothed the body of truth in the romantic garb of allegory.

In rounding out this long chapter it is supremely desirable that the full import of Paul’s silence that so damages the case for the historical Christ be summarized and crystallized. On the basis of the premises established it is simply inconceivable that the ardent Apostle--the actual founder of Christianity!--could have left in his writings a total blank about the man Jesus. No amount of sophistry or mental chicanery can set aside the verdict of common sense. Any argument advanced to "explain" it rings from the start with the hollowness of sounding brass and the feebleness of a tinkling cymbal. Paul was in essential leanings a Gnostic, one of the Hellenic philosophers so despised by the anti-philosophical wing of fanatical Christianity in the third and fourth centuries. The ineluctable reason why Paul does not mention a historical Jesus is that he had obviously never heard of one, and further could not have conceived of one. No more could he have believed in a personal Logos than could Philo, who was about contemporary with him. Paul and John, says Bacon, saved Christianity from vitiation for the generations beyond their own. Yet Paul and John had no theology of a personal Jesus, obviously and admittedly. So logic concludes that it was a theology that had no room for the personal Christ that saved Christianity.

The final word here should be a dissertation on the true inward meaning of the phrase--the Word made flesh. The easy step from the esoteric collective sense over to the exoteric personal caricature of the idea spelled a swift and facile "descent to Avernus" for Christian theology. With the total loss of the formulae and keys of the antique arcana, the fateful transmogrification of true meanings into nonsense fell speedily upon ecclesiastical doctrinism through many avenues. But one of the chief and most immediately damaging misconstructions was that which inhered in the misreading of single names of type characters in a singular instead of a multiple or distributive sense. Just as it would be a misconstruction to read Santa Claus as one character giving gifts to all children, instead of the spirit of giving distributed among all parents, so it was a mistake to predicate the flesh which the Logos was to assume as the mortal flesh of one man. Naïve thinking, if the more discerning truth is withheld, jumps to the conclusion that if the Word is to become flesh, it must be encased in the body of one man. But the thinking and the knowledge behind Biblical esotericism is by no means naïve. It is inexpressibly recondite, unbelievably cryptic. It takes at least as much acumen to decipher the occult sense thus embalmed in allegory as it required constructive genius and inventive deftness to embody it there. What the vital phrase then signifies in its original cryptic intimation is that the Logos, the ideal archetypal structure-form of God’s thought, which was to be borne out to utterance by the resonant thunder of his Voice or spoken Word--precisely as our voices carry out in their tones the ideas of our minds and stamp them upon the living world--was to go vibrating down to the lowest levels of the reach of the creative emanation and finally stamp its image and form upon the highest creature of flesh. The pulsing electronic energy of divine Mind was in the end to become the presiding genius in bodies of flesh. Not in the flesh of a man, but in the flesh of humanity was the light of the Word to be born, glimmer and shine. It was to enter and become flesh collectively, with its rays distributed among all men, and not confined in one single body alone. The Egyptians have the term from which indeed, in utmost likelihood, the very name "Christ" has come, to designate the "soul made flesh." It is their Karast, the name of the deceased in the mummy-coffin, and it means "fleshed." Modern theology will never recover the genuinely correct sense of much of the ancient sacred writ until it restores to a central place in its structure of exegesis the forgotten doctrine of "Dismemberment," the idea of the fragmentation or cutting of deity to pieces, or as the Greeks put it, "the distribution of whole natures" of the gods into infinite partition, so that a seed fragment of divine Mind may be planted in the life of every creature. This principle is indeed clearly embodied in Christian theology and ritual in the Christ’s breaking of the loaf--after declaring that it typified or "was" his own body--and distributing a portion of it to each participant in the divine transubstantiation. Each fragment of his deific nature thus transplanted in the body, heart and mind of the communicants became "fleshed" or Karast; and this became the Christ on the cross of flesh. The Christ in each of us is the Word made flesh, which after the analogy of the broken pieces of the loaf, came and dwelt among us, telling us that indeed unless we take and "eat" of this divine essence, our aeonial salvation will not be accomplished. The mind can see at this juncture that the moment one leaps from the meaning of the incarnation of the Christos "in all men" to the other sense of "in one man, Jesus," the groundwork for a rational and intelligible comprehension of the fleshing of the Logos, and with it the whole basic sense of ancient religion, flies away, and confusion stalks the effort to grasp the purport of all theology. The entire edifice of theology is built upon and around the central fact of the descent of the Logos into flesh and matter. It is the nub of the entire system. It is the key to the scriptures. The planting of the seed fragment of divine nature distributively in humanity was and is the advent of Christos, the great aeonial divine coming. That the Son of God was collectively the Sons of God, or the principle of Sonship distributed like bread to the "multitude," has never been decisively grasped as the prime key to the theological systemology. "The gods distribute divinity" is one of the most sententious and revealing items in the profound Platonic philosophy belittled by Christian dogmatists. "Each superior deity," explains Proclus, "receiving from on high the excellent nature of those gods who are above it, imparts it in divided measure to those natures immediately secondary to themselves." The gods in the rank above us offer us their very bodies, i.e., the essence of their divine natures, the substance of intellect and will, for us to feed upon by appropriation, or "eating." If the bread is the body of the Christ’s nature, how can it be implanted germinally in the flesh of billions unless it be broken into as many fragments as there are to be communicants?

This is the meaning--all lost in the historicizing process--of the multiplication of the loaves (and fishes) to feed the multitude.

The Logos was made flesh, but not in one man only. Paul thrilled to this knowledge, and the Bible hardly anywhere rises to such majesty and loftiness as in those passages in his Epistles wherein he dissertates on the forming of the Christ in us through the growth of charity in our hearts. There is no confusion there. That comes in only when the man-Christ is thrust into the picture.