Cosmic Majesty With Local Items

Chapter X

The first item to be examined in connection with the Nativity is that which has come to be known as the Slaughter of the Innocents. If any sane and intelligent person will let his reason function for a single minute upon the subject he will be assured that such an episode as the wholesale slaughter of the male babes under two years in Judea by edict of the ruler of the province and for the reason alleged could have held its place in Christian minds as factual history for centuries only through a total paralysis of mentality so great as to surpass all credibility. It would surely seem as if the acceptance of such an incident as part of the history of the Savior of the world could have occurred only among people rated as semi-intelligent or semi-barbaric. The phenomenon of its having gained and long held credible status among people whom history rates as the leaders in world civilization challenges the student with the riddle of such an anomaly. It would almost seem a labor of supererogation to demonstrate its patent non-historicity; but with millions of minds still hallucinated by the spell of the miraculous and the supernatural as being the legitimate essence of "religion," and with the Bible standing in the character of a fetish which must be approached only when the reason has been put in abeyance, the task of disproving what could not by any possibility have occurred must be undertaken.

To begin with, the consideration at once occurs to reflection--when one transfers the episode from romantic subjectivism to concrete realism on the plane of everyday factuality, in the process of which nearly every incident in the Bible at once appears impossible and ridiculous--that to carry out such an edict Herod must have struck at all the infant children of his own political supporters, his friends, his courtiers, the members of the ring that are with him in power. It is incredible that a man in his position, short of being demented, would have risked the infliction of slaughter and grief upon the families of those in his own political "gang." Nor is it conceivable that this powerful coterie of his closest supporters, his cabinet, and the noblemen would have permitted an order that would have involved their own children.

Then the incident is recorded only in the Gospels; and by now it must be clear that the Gospels are spiritual dramas and not histories. There is therefore no historical record of the event. Veridical history knows absolutely nothing about it. It is a total blank as regards this incident in the "life" of Jesus. It is an allegorical formulation and nothing else. It, too, traces its mythological origin to Egypt, where the Innocents--the virgin units of divine mind, our souls-to-be--were attacked, like the infant Hercules in his cradle, by the two reptiles (representing the lower natural forces of the body, in warfare with the newborn Christos taking his initial plunge into carnality), the Apap serpent and the Herut water monster. The soul-units were characterized as "innocent" because they were children of God, newly generated offshoots of his mind, that had not ever previously been wedded to matter in full incarnation. The meaning, as always, is evolutionary, cosmic or spiritual, never objectively historical. On their downward plunge into the world and body they had to withstand the onslaught of the carnal nature with its menace of engulfing, devouring their incipient spiritual nature. This was dramatized as the attack of the serpent upon them in their infancy or childhood. The youthful David overcame the monster Goliath as one version of it, and the fairy legends of the young St. George or petit Jack battling the giant are other forms of it. It is all to typify the danger involving the hosts of young souls from the side of the carnal body on their first venture into incarnation.

Higgins says categorically that the story of Herod and the Innocents is quite unknown to all the Jewish, Roman and Greek historians. Mead states that the Talmud Rabbis know nothing of Herod’s wholesale murder of the children as recounted in the introduction of our first canonical Gospel. Josephus knows nothing of it, although he had no reason for whitewashing the character of Herod had such a dastardly outrage been an actual fact. And the Talmud Rabbis so thoroughly hated the memory of Herod that they could not have failed to record such a horror had he been really guilty. Mead adds that we must remember that the Rabbis had no belief whatever in the Gospel tradition as history.

On the subject Lundy has this to say:

"Although persecution began with the very birth and infancy of Christ, when King Herod sent his ‘blood-hunting slaughtermen’ to Bethlehem to ‘spit the naked infants upon pikes and make their mad mothers’ howls break the clouds,’ yet of this horrible massacre there is no trace at all in the Roman catacombs and none in any Christian art until about the close of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, when we have an example on a sarcophagus from the crypt of St. Maximin, France. . . . Modern Romish art must needs represent the actual slaughter in all its horrible and sickening details to make it impressive to the vulgar, as Fra Angelico, Raphael and especially Rubens have done. Early Christian art had a more refined delicacy of taste and far better conceptions of the true and only object of art, which is to teach, cheer, comfort and elevate the soul of man, and not fill him with horrors and ideas of cruelty and licentiousness."

(Lundy adduces the valuable testimony also that there is no picturing of the flight into Egypt and return of the holy family to Nazareth in early art, and none of Christ among the doctors in the temple until about the fifth century.)

To accentuate the point that considerations of factual history had little to do with the fixing of a date for Jesus’ birth, it is worth inserting a quotation given by Epiphanius (Haer., LI, p. 22) from the Codex Marcianus:

"The Savior was born in the forty-second year of Augustus, king of the Romans, in the consulship of the same Octavi(an)us Augustus, (for the thirteenth time), and of Sil(v)anus according to the consular calendar among the Romans. For it is recorded in it as follows: When these were consuls . . . Christ was born on the sixth day of January, after thirteen days of the winter solstice and of the increase of the light and day. This day (of the solstice) the Greeks, I mean the Idolaters, celebrate on the twenty-fifth day of December a feast called Saturnalia among the Romans, Kronia among the Egyptians, and Kikellia among the Alexandrians. For on the twenty-fifth day of December the division takes place which is the solstice, and the day begins to lengthen its light, receiving an increase, and there are thirteen days of it up to the sixth day of January, until the day of the birth of Christ (a thirtieth of an hour being added each day), as the wise Ephraim among the Syrians bore witness by this inspired passage (logos) in his commentaries, where he says: ‘The advent of our Lord Jesus Christ was thus appointed: (First) his birth according to the flesh, then his perfect incarnation among men which is called Epiphany, at a distance of thirteen days from the increase of the light; for it needs must have been that this should be a figure of our Lord Jesus Christ himself and of his twelve disciples, who made up the number of the thirteen days of the increase of the light."

The sixth of January is still traditionally celebrated as the day of the birth of Christ in England and elsewhere. Christian heads are for the most part guiltless of any suspicion of the reason for the date. The quoted passage hints at it, but, without ancient Egyptian backgrounds of data, leaves the matter still obscure. We have already seen that the most primary significance of the number twelve, as pertaining to the disciples, tribes of Israel, months of the year, and other usages, was the Egyptian designation, the Twelve Saviors of the Treasure of Light. The Christ would be fully "born" in humanity when his gradual infiltration into human consciousness had unfolded to perfection the twelve rays of divine mind which man is to express. The inchoate divine light in mankind was to increase by twelve stages of growth to the full shining of Christhood in all hearts. What more natural symbolism then could be adopted than the counting of the first twelve days of increasing light from the solstice of darkness, figured as the twenty-fifth of December? And after twelve days came the thirteenth, on which the whole twelve powers were synthesized in the unified being of the Christos. So that now with the resort again to Egyptian constructions of imagery there can be announced for the first time to the Christian population the correct significance of their celebrating the birth of Jesus both on the twenty-fifth of December and the sixth of January. As the Egyptians would have said, the December solstitial date commemorated the birth of Horus the Younger, the infant Horus, type of the first or natural man Adam; while the January date thirteen days later marked the day of the birth of Horus the Elder, Horus the adult, the homme faît or man made perfect, second Adam. In simpler terms, the December date marked the physical beginning of the birth of the Christ spirit in mankind and the January date marked the concluding stage of its aeonial increase. All of which again throws the meaning of the word "birth," in reference to the Christos, into its true and proper significance, as a gradual increase of a spiritual quality over a long period, the whole cycle or aeon. Man, who is to be divinized, had first to be physically "born" on a given planet. So the Christ-man as ritualistic type of a divinized humanity, had also to be given his "birth-day"--at the winter solstice, as a babe in the flesh. It will be noticed that the tradition outlined in the Codex Marcianus lays significant stress upon the apparently extraneous fact that the Savior’s birth on the sixth of January came in the thirteenth consulship of Octavius Augustus, obviously an obscure hint that Deity fell in with the symbolism to the extent of adding another historical thirteen to the combination. Christians celebrate many a festival day in the year’s calendar without the slightest inkling as to the long-lost purport of the ritual commemorations.

Reverting to the Herodian hecatomb of infant death, if the inherent impossibilities of the case do not suffice to determine the matter against the historicity, there is another fact that settles it with finality. This is the date of Herod’s death. Christian historians have been relentlessly forced to assent to the year 4 B.C. as the date of the Tetrarch’s demise. When verified historical fact is the piper, theological fiction must dance in tune. So back goes the official "date" of Jesus’ birth to the year 4 B.C., since Herod must be kept in the story. This throws the whole dating of the Christian era four years out of line with the first guess.

But what will be done now when another authentic date is found and another shift will have to be made on the strength of it? Another ruler is mentioned as on the throne when Jesus was born, and his date is still farther away from the year one. Matthew says that Caesar Augustus levied the great world tax that required Joseph to register at Bethlehem, "now when Cyrenius was Governor in Syria." There has hardly been a period in eastern Mediterranean history when the records of the provincial governments under the Roman Empire were so well kept as just the time referred to. The official annals of the Syrian government are well preserved; and they show no Governor at all by the name of Cyrenius! The closest approximation to the name is Quirinus, and Moffatt’s translation of the New Testament inserts Quirinus for Cyrenius in the Nativity narrative. But the authentic date of the governorship of this Quirinus is the two-years period between 13 and 11 B.C.! To accommodate its dating to this item of the "historical" chronicle of Jesus’ "life," official ecclesiasticism must now endorse a date eight or nine years farther back than 4 B.C. Two such corrections leave the whole historical structure of Christianity badly shaken, near in fact to the point of tottering. Without a change in the date of the first Christmas the participation of Herod in the infant slaughter becomes impossible. The personal Herod was four years in his grave when the Bethlehem babe arrived.

Comment has already been made on the close similarity of the name of the Egyptian serpent Herut to the Tetrarch’s name, and the likelihood of a substitution of the latter for the former when the Egyptian myth was converted into "history." Presumably clinching proof of this jugglery may never be available. It must be left then to rest upon the strong presumptive probabilities inherent in the situation. It must be held deeply suggestive, however, that the name Herod occupies exactly the same place, role and significance in the Gospel "incident" that the Herut reptile fills in the Egyptian allegory! It is the Herut menace to our young divine souls in the one instance, and the Herod menace to the young divinity in the other. This alone is enough to remove it from the realm of coincidence and conjecture and to throw it over into that of identity of character. If it was one isolated single occurrence of such definite correspondence, the case might be classed as accidental. But when it is known to be but one of a long series of such agreements and matchings, sound judgment inclines to call it another historization of Egyptian myth. Such it almost indubitably must be considered.

The fact of Herod’s death in the year 4 B.C. alone jars the whole fabric of Christian systematism to its foundations. Christian apologists have belittled in the past, and presumably will again in the future depreciate the importance of the precise date of the birth of their Savior, and will in spite of all facts cling to the historicity of the episode. But we shall see that the structure of the historical claim, severely weakened by the non-authenticity of its very first chapter of events, will be still further assaulted and finally dismantled by a long series of blows from the side of fact, until if it stands at all, it must rest on sheer stolid faith alone. It will be found to be utterly discredited by reason, by data, and by the sheer physical impossibility of the occurrence of Biblical events when they are treated realistically and not romantically. The latter particular will be noted in glaring vividness when the legend of the star of Bethlehem is examined.

From Herod at the birth, it is a short jump to Pilate at the death, of the historical Jesus.

Authoritative data are wanting to present any outright negative evidence as to the participation of the pro-consul in the Gospel events.

But there is a textual detail that looms larger and larger the longer it is considered. It is a phrase in the Apostles’ Creed of the Christian Church.

The creed--worthy itself of a whole volume’s study--is by no means a mere abbreviated rune or formulary of Christian theological belief. It is that, but it is infinitely more than that. It is a brief of ancient cosmology and creative process, incarnation of spirit in matter, descent of soul into body and return to greater deific state by virtue of the victory won in the lower worlds. An item of the journey of celestial divine spirit through the planes of matter that could not be left out was the "suffering" entailed for it by the necessity of its going "under" the limitations imposed on it by matter’s lower range of vibrational sensitivity. Now matter, as has been set forth fully elsewhere, was typified universally and ubiquitously in ancient symbolism by water, so that even the name most generally applied to the mothers of the Christs was in whatever language the word for water, sea, ocean. Mary is incontestably of this origin, being Mare, Maria in Latin, and Thallath, "the sea" (name of a Hellenic "Mother of God"), in Greek. Primeval space, the mother of all things, being matter in inchoate form, was the Great Deep, the waters of the abyss, the firmament of the waters. Now the quality of matter that caused it to be the generator of suffering for the energies of spirit that were "cribbed, cabined and confined" under its sluggish inertness, was its density. It is therefore not a shrewd guess, not a mere chance discernment of a concatenation of phrase and idea that enables us to make a totally new translation of one of the clauses in the Apostles’ Creed, by which change the historical Pilate is swept entirely out of the narrative. It is not a sheer stretching of points to make designed ends meet, but must be the result of the rational necessities involved in the only correct and consistent envisagement of the matters discussed in the Creed, when it is asserted that the creedal phrase detailing with the utmost brevity the duress of spirit under the thraldom of matter, must inexpugnably have been in the true original formulation of the ritual statement, "he suffered under the dense sea, was crucified, dead and buried." "Dense sea" would have been merely a euphemism, familiar to all in Mystery Ritual cultism, for "he suffered under the limitation of dense matter,"--a shorthand expression in Mystery language. What, then, in the light of this irrefutable statement of the true basic meaning that fits with absolute nicety and exactness into that very place in the Creed, must be our amazement when we turn to the Greek and find a similarity of name even closer to identity than the Herod-Herut one-- "dense sea" in the Greek manuscripts is given as @insert Greek equiv. (pontos pilètos)! "He suffered under pontos pilètos: he suffered under the dense sea" (of matter).

It is far from being a merely specious argument, indeed it is a fully warranted contention, that the sudden introduction in this majestic cosmograph in the impressive ritual of the name of a mere man is a misfit and impertinence bordering close on to the sublimest ineptitude. It is exactly like the sudden injection of Bill Brown of 128 North Sixth Street into a line in Paradise Lost. It is too sudden a jerk from the sweep of cosmic drama to page 195 of a school history. A personal reference to our own childhood reaction to this phrase in the Creed may be pardoned. Even from the age of ten or twelve there seemed something wholly incongruous and vaguely disturbing when the Creed jumped without warning from celestial operations on a majestic scale to the judge of a court trial down in Judea. The sudden insertion of one human person’s name in the text amid otherwise lofty epic dramatization was jarring and disconcerting. It was an ideological anomaly. It did not ring harmoniously with the context. It stands to reason that the introduction of a local ruler’s name into what is provably an august formula of creative cosmology and evolutionary method is obviously an interpolation, and a glaring instance of the wreckage caused by that enormous transposition of allegory and formulae over into supposed history. It will be denied because we can produce no cinema of the scribes caught in the act of changing Herut to Herod and pontos pilètos to Pontius Pilate; but the results of the change glare at us nevertheless.

It must strike anyone who thinks clearly for a moment that the writer of a formulary, as the Creed was intended to be, aiming to express most succinctly the suffering of soul under matter’s heavy burden, would have been most unlikely to summarize the long list of dramatic ordeals in mortal career with the phrase "suffered under Pontius Pilate," the proconsul. Even in the "history" of Jesus according to the Gospels, the man Pilate was not at all a central factor in Jesus’ sufferings. His part was in fact incidental. Pilate’s decree was merely an incident in a chain of events that already had gained such moral momentum that any other decision than condemnation would have been an anticlimax and an artistic faux pas. It would have wrecked the scenario. Pilate’s pardon of Jesus would have left Christianity limp and unheroic, much as if in a murder mystery the first-chapter murder victim should recover and defeat the story. Jesus had to be condemned--"it must needs be that Christ should suffer and enter into his glory"--and Pilate’s dramatic role was merely mechanical. He has never been taken, even by literalists, for more than a puppet or marionette in the play. And all this inharmony of the elements in the situation is nicely adjusted and resolved if the original reading of "dense sea" is put back in place of the forged proconsul’s name.

As to the Apocryphal Gospel of Pilate and the documents entitled Letters of Pilate to Seneca and the philosopher’s rejoinders, they are obviously forged Gospels, of which there were scores in existence at the time. A perusal of them suggests forgery in every phase and verse, as is also the case with the so-called Gospels of the Infancy, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the strange Gospel of Paul and Thecla and others.

Having foisted upon the proconsul’s name the ignominy of condemning the Son of God to death, Christian imagination has pursued his shade even beyond the grave, and in various literary concoctions has pictured the anguish of soul which he is undergoing in some darksome Sheol, as post mortem realization of the ghastly crime he had committed upon earth overwhelmed him. Unless sanity returns even these lucubrations may become the canonical Gospels of some later ecclesiasticism.