Friday, May 18, 2018

Parallels Between Clement's Initiation in Alexandria by Barnabas in the Homilies and Secret Mark

Clementine Homilies (Clement and Barnabas in Alexandria after hearing an unnamed preacher in Rome): I left all my affairs as they were, and sped to Portus; and coming to the harbour, and being taken on board a ship, I was borne by adverse winds to Alexandria instead of Judæa ... And when I said that I wished I could meet with some one of those who had seen Him, they immediately brought me to one, saying, “There is one here who not only is acquainted with Him, but is also of that country, a Hebrew, by name Barnabas, who says that he himself is one of His disciples; and hereabouts he resides, and readily announces to those who will the terms of His promise.” Then I went with them; and when I came, I stood listening to his words with the crowd that stood round him; and I perceived that he was speaking the truth not with dialectic art, but was setting forth simply and without preparation what he had heard and seen the manifested Son of God do and say.

I took Barnabas by the hand, and by force conducted him, against his will, to my lodging, and constrained him to remain there ... And having spent several days, and instructed me briefly in the true doctrine he said that he should hasten into Judæa 
Clementine Recognitions (Clement and in Rome):
But as the day was declining to evening, I laid hold of Barnabas by the right hand, and led him away, although reluctantly, to my house; and there I made him remain, lest perchance any one of the rude rabble should lay hands upon him. While we were thus placed in contact for a few days, I gladly heard him discoursing the word of truth yet he hastened his departure, saying that he must by all means celebrate at Judæa 
Secret Mark:
he [Jesus] stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan [to Judea]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Who Was Irenaeus Writing For or Writing To?

Irenaeus's massive tome, Adversus Haereses, survives only in Latin.  It is the oldest surviving heresiological work.  While we use terms like 'heretic' and 'heresy' to mean something like 'dissenting voices' Irenaeus's purpose was in fact quite different from this.  His point was to argue that 'the sects' (= heresies) were properly identified as belonging to his Church, albeit under the influence of various 'inventive personalities' who - through their cunning - distanced themselves from the true Church.
"These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe."  
While Irenaeus's tome now appears as something of a 'bird watching guide' - i.e. a listing of various 'types' of sectarians, there are clear signs that the work itself developed into its present form.  A work principally directed against the Valentinians (and now preserved by Tertullian in Latin as Adversus Valentinianos) is at the core of Book One of Irenaeus's tome.  But on top of this lost work the list of 'all the other heresies' was added at a later date and perhaps from earlier sources.

Of course the exact history of how this present work - Adversus Haereses - was formed is clouded by the general tendency of the Church Fathers to plagiarize one another at will.  There are at least a half dozen variations of Adversus Haereses ascribed to different authors - some older, most later - than Irenaeus.  The depth of dishonesty among the first Church Fathers should convince us to hold off on saying for instance that Justin really did write a lost 'syntagma' or pamphlet against the heresies which forms the basis to much of the additional material in Adversus Haereses.  This too might have been a forgery written in the name of Justin as indeed additions to Justin's existing works have been identified by even conservative scholars made around the time of Irenaeus.

In short there was a flood of forged and reforged 'compilations' or lists of heresies that seem to have been channeled through Irenaeus.  They exists and do not exist any longer in the names of virtually everyone associated with Irenaeus so we can't get a clear picture of where and when Irenaeus's influence begins and ends.  It seems as if there was an orthodox 'factory' of heresiological literature associated with this one Church Father at the end of the second century.  Why was this obsession with listing heresies so prevalent in the period?  The short answer seems to be that it was part of the orthodox myth making exercises epitomized by fake histories like the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul.

In other words, at the same time that for instance the orthodox Church was making up a story of its origins from the first apostles, it was also actively promulgating the argument 'the sects' were really reprobate members of their community.  Even though the heresies themselves clearly pitched the idea that they too had a chain of transmission from Jesus through 'alternative distribution channels' - i.e. hearers of Paul who were ignored or condemned by their rivals works like Adversus Haereses succeeded in effectively ignoring these 'alternative histories.'  Why so?  Because the point of Irenaeus's efforts was to say, the heretics stole our books, the heretics came to our churches - we were already established when these men appeared, mostly in the middle of the second century.

The curious thing about these fake histories is that they are always willing to argue for some sort of association between the 'true Church' and the heresies.  Marcion it is claimed, once belonged to the community, Valentinus and others 'came to Rome' to join the community at some date.  If the counterclaims were at all respected of course the 'story of the Church' would be told from a completely different perspective.  The story would have been of 'rival' communities.  But this was not the path that Irenaeus took and the answer for this quite clear when you look at the sources themselves.  Irenaeus was ultimately making the case that the orthodox had the right to the property of the heretics.  Irenaeus was making the case that the orthodox bishops should be the overseers of Christians generally and the only people that such a message could be appealed to would be members of the Imperial court ultimately.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Marcion, Irenaeus and the Monarchia

I am of course a 'minority opinion' within the study of Marcion(1) - I don't think that any 'eyewitness testimony' about the Marcionism is 'eyewitness testimony' at all.  Who really ever met a Marcionite, let alone Marcion?  In this regard I find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum from most scholarship on the subject.  I think the only people to have ever met a Marcionite or engaged in any meaningful way with Marcionism are the Eastern sources - that is Ephrem the Syrian and Eznik the Armenian.   Yes they are late sources but they are also very good sources.

I am not convinced for instance that Epiphanius (fourth century) ever met a Marcionite or had any contact with the Marcionite canon.  'What's that?'  exclaim the Marcionite orthodoxy in scholarship, 'but he published detailed information about the Marcionite canon.'  But Epiphanius published lots of  alleged 'firsthand accounts' of things which are not what they appear to be.  He never encountered the 'Greater Questions of Mary' a text which he claims was in the hands of a particularly sexualized heretical group.  I have on this very blog listed over a hundred claims of Epiphanius which scholars have strong doubts about or are outright lies.

The point is that early Christian scholarship reverences 'textual evidence.'  The preservation of written documentation about early Christianity and early Christian communities forms the backbone of our knowledge in the field.  But I often feel there isn't sufficient suspicion about the reliability of a lot of this information.  Not merely that our sources are 'lying' to us, but that their dishonesty took a much subtler form - viz. instead of providing us with 'direct' firsthand experience of a phenomenon or controversy many of the most prolific Church Fathers simply plagiarized earlier reports which haven't come down to us in their original form.

So to this end, Epiphanius did not sit down at a table with the Catholic canon and the Marcionite canon and set out to write the little pamphlet that was famously attached to his Panarion, a tome of dozens of 'heretical sects' within the first three hundred and fifty years of Christianity.  I suspect that he simply got one of his underlings to cull the many 'Against Marcion' texts that were already in existence and lifted the textual criticism efforts of previous generations of Church Fathers.

Why does this matter?  Because I think it helps explain why Epiphanius's list of 'things in the Marcionite canon' doesn't match Tertullian's and vice versa.  Moreover, and this goes back to my original point,  it helps explain why Tertullian and Epiphanius 'agree' that the Marcionite gospel is 'like Luke' but disagree with Ephrem and Eznik who say essentially their gospel was 'like' a gospel harmony or like the Diatessaron.

The point of course is that both sets of claims can't both be true.  The gospel of Marcion can't both be what Irenaeus, Tertullian and Epiphanius say it is - viz. 'an adulterated version of Luke' and what Ephrem and Eznik take it to be - a gospel very similar to the Diatessaron.  This is a fundamental disconnect which is only explained by traditional scholarship by assuming that 'latter day' Marcionism moved completely away from the 'traditional variety' known to Irenaeus and Tertullian.

But there is something even more peculiar about the chasm which exists between these two camps of 'Marcionite reporting.'  Tertullian makes the case for a strongly dualistic - almost Manichaean - understanding of Marcionite theology.  The rest of our sources tend to disagree.  The Marcionites argued for three powers and most curious of all, Irenaeus - who is Tertullian's source for claims that the Marcionite gospel was 'like Luke' - is an important source for information that the Marcionite godhead was tripartite (or at least that the two principle powers of God were 'just' and 'merciful' rather than 'good' and 'evil').

How is all this confusion to be explained?  The short answer is that the Church Fathers are clearly not very good sources of information about Marcion.  This seems obvious to me given the situation but it is nothing short of heresy within the field of study of Marcionism.  The Church Fathers have to be considered to be reliable sources otherwise, the unconscious argument goes, we can really say anything with any certainty about Marcionism.

But sometimes that's the way it is.  I might like 'being intimate' with someone.  But if that person proves to be an unreliable, dishonest person I might have to break off the relationship or - if I am really enamored - acknowledge that things are going to end up badly but nevertheless 'hang in there.'  Just because I want to enjoy a passionate relationship with an uncommitted partner doesn't mean that everything is going to work out.

In the same way the undeniably contradictory information about the Marcionite sect - when the writings of the Church Fathers are taken as a totality - necessarily means that someone has to be wrong about the group.  But the underlying complexity of the relation between sources is also problematic.  For Clement of Alexandria, Marcion was an extreme Platonist.  For the author of the Philosophumena a devotee of the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles.  Tertullian can say Marcion was too much a Jew and a Jew-hater almost in the same breath.

We can't keep pretending that there isn't something wrong with the state of evidence with respect to Marcion any longer.  It's like the girl who doesn't hear from her boyfriend for most of the night - almost every night - only to be told he's 'got problems with his phone service.'   The real issue with respect to the bad reporting about Marcion in the Church Fathers has to be identified.  How can so many people allegedly having firsthand experience with Marcion, his church and his canon contradict one another in their reporting?

The short answer is of course that no one - with the exception of Epiphanius - ever claims to have before them the Marcionite canon.  Epiphanius is a pathological liar who always aggrandizes his knowledge and his authority so let's dismiss that claim.  No one else actually claims to have before them firsthand information about the very thing they are writing about.  This in itself helps explain why there is so much bad reporting about Marcion.  On some level, some of the stuff is just made up.

Yet there is more to it than that.  Why did all these Church Fathers develop all these wacky theories about Marcionism if they in fact had no firsthand knowledge of the thing they were reporting on?  The real answer comes when we change the 'why' into a 'how.'  How did all this reporting come about?  The how is obvious - the opening lines of Tertullian's Against Marcion make absolutely explicit that at least three different versions of this heresiological tome were floating around at the time the surviving text was produced.  In other words, the world was filled with individual Christians proving that they could write something against Marcion.  It was sort of like the ancient equivalent of the 'ice bucket challenge.'

Given the number of 'Against Marcion' treatises that were floating around at the end of the second century (at least ten different known texts of this name in the span of fifty years) it seems self-evident there was some sort of demand for this type of text.  But why and by whom?  Why does no one in our surviving literature defend Marcion?  Why isn't there a 'For Marcion' pamphlet among all the negative reporting?  It wasn't that Marcion wasn't old, or wise, or learned, or apostolic.  He is credited with all these things and more.  For some reason Marcion was loathed or at least not actively defended by any influential Christians during the period of Commodus's rule.

Let's give the only historical example that has come down to us of a Marcionite.  The story of the 'questioning' of Apelles the Marcionite in Eusebius's Church History.  Eusebius picks up a text that is now lost to us.  It tells of an 'inquisition' of Apelles.  The treatise is directed to Zephyrinus of Rome's deacon Callistus - a man who would later go on to himself sit on the episcopal throne.  The unnamed recounts the story like this:
For the old man Apelles, when conversing with us, was refuted in many things which he spoke falsely; whence also he said that it was not at all necessary to examine one's doctrine, but that each one should continue to hold what he believed. For he asserted that those who trusted in the Crucified would be saved, if only they were found doing good works.  But as we have said before, his opinion concerning God was the most obscure of all. For he spoke of monarchia as also our doctrine does ... When I said to him, Tell me how you know this or how can you assert that there is monarchia, he replied that the prophecies refuted themselves, because they have said nothing true; for they are inconsistent, and false, and self-contradictory. But how there is monarchia he said that he did not know, but that he was thus persuaded.  As I then adjured him to speak the truth, he swore that he did so when he said that he did not know how there is one unbegotten God, but that he believed it. Thereupon I laughed and reproved him because, though calling himself a teacher, he knew not how to confirm what he taught.
The point of course is that Apelles is asked 'how do you know there is a monarchia' and Apelles the Marcionite refuses to answer.   Why does he refuse to answer?  Apelles was an intelligent man, very capable of making arguments.  And yet he pretends he doesn't want to explain what he knows of the heavenly monarchia to the assembled gathering?

It is worth pointing out that there is a contemporary parallel worth investigating.  In the Samaritan the chronicle of Abu'l Fath (who was clearly drawing from an earlier Greek MS) detailing the events of the reign of the Emperor Commodus there is a story which might shed light on why Apelles the Christian was so reluctant to explain his understanding of the heavenly monarchia.    Commodus sent Alexander of Aphrodisias - or the exegete (ὁ ἐξηγητής) as he was called by his contemporaries - to debate a Samaritan named Levi over the very same issue - the heavenly monarchy.  What follows in this lengthy document is a remarkable philosophical discussion but one which finds surprising parallels for what was going on elsewhere in the Empire under Commodus.

We are told Commodus mercilessly slaughters the Samaritans owing to their opinions about the monarchia by the exegete (ὁ ἐξηγητής) as revealed during the debate.  Was this the underlying historical context that was causing Apelles to avoid explaining his Marcionite understanding of the monarchia?   Did he fear for his life?  There is nothing in the surviving document from Eusebius which tells us that Apelles was martyred after his interrogation.  But is worth noting that another body of literature associated with the martyr Apollos - also from Alexandria, like Apelles - says that indeed that this 'philosopher' was killed after he reveals the Father of Jesus, the god whom Jesus told his believers to "honour [as] the monarch."

A great number of ancient witnesses see the names Apelles and Apollos as interchangeable - viz. Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Grotius.  Could Commodus have been waging a war in favor of the religious veneration of the earthly monarchy (i.e. his own throne) as a reflection of the heavenly momarchia?  It is something clearly that Allen Brent would consider.  But I would go one step further as we return back to our original point.  The reason Marcion was vilified by the Christians of the Commodian period is because he promote what was deemed (by the authorities) the wrong understanding of the divine monarchia.  Irenaeus by contrast was favored because he promoted the right understanding - the right belief - associated with this phenomenon.

It is coincidence it seems that like Alexander of Aphrodisias, Irenaeus basically took to task an entire religion - the Christian religion that existed before him - on the subject of 'right belief' regarding the monarchia.  I can't think of a single individual let alone a community whom Irenaeus identifies as having the 'right understanding.'  He simply expounds to his readership - as if it never existed before. Interestingly Irenaeus's orthodoxy reconciling three gods as one ruler is developed at least in part from Aristotelian mixture theory according to the H A Wolfson.  Indeed like Alexander of Aphrodisias, Irenaeus is referenced by the epithet - 'the exegete' (ὁ ἐξηγητής).

The truth is that I don't know why there are so many parallels in two different religions regarding - the monarchia, Aristotelian mixture theory and an Imperial campaign to enforce political orthodoxy in religion. All that we can be certain of is that there seems to be some underlying commonality.  Indeed a recently discovered Hebrew fragment of Nicholaus of Damascus (usually dated to the court of Herod the Great where he held a prominent position) might make matters even more complicated. All that we know for sure is that a man who was usually dated to the period before Christianity seemed to anticipate very Christian ideas regarding the Trinity.  The fragment reads:
And concerning them Nicholas in the name of Aristotle wrote that God is one in substance, three in definition, that is to say, one cannot think that those (principles), being one substance which is God — i.e. that with which He makes the world, and that with which He is its form, and that with which He is its aim — are separated from Him, even in thought, nor even when we consider that24 the world was void and absent, and after this has come to be ; (in fact), if so (i.e. if those principles depart from Him), He (= God) would be neither a god nor a First Cause.
This fragment is explained by its discoverer Mauro Zonta in the following terms:
If this is the case, Nicolaus produced a peculiarly Peripatetic version of this dogma : God is one, being a single substance, but He is also three, insofar as He is the efficient cause, formal cause, and final cause of the whole world. The fragment immediately follows a reference to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and this suggests that it was quoted from Nicolaus’ exposition of this book (a work of his which is quoted by a famous scholion in the ms. of Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gr. 1853, f. 312r, possibly a section of the DPA itself). If so, it is likely that its original location in the book was framed within an account of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book Lambda, ch. 6ss. (although it must be remembered that Nicolaus did not always keep the same order of contents as the one he found in Aristotle’s books5). As for Aristotle’s own theology, the question whether his God, the Prime Mover, is an efficient or final cause is a very controversial matter, and it is not surprising that Nicolaus wished to harmonize those views as he could find good reasons in favour of both. If he was a Christian, the idea that God as Creator is an efficient cause fits quite naturally in his exegesis of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, as the introduction of the fragment indicates, in particular if one compares book 12, chapters 6-7, of this work.6 Concerning God as formal cause, this idea is less immediately evident in Aristotle. However in at least one passage of Lambda, his Prime Mover is said to be substance without matter, essence only (Lambda 1074a35, cf. 1071a36) ; this will allow Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. 200 AD) to regard it as pure, immaterial form, εἶδος ἄνευ ὕλης (cf. e.g. Alexander’s Quaestiones I.1, p. 4.7-16,7 I.25, p. 39.9s.).8 As for the connexion of these different kinds of causes to each other, Aristotle’s Physics II.7 states that in living beings the efficient cause is identical (at least, i.e., specifically identical) with the formal cause, and moreover that this is identical (both specifically and numerically) with the final cause. Thus the doctrine of the fragment, even if unusual, seems a plausible one for a Peripatetic scholar, and it warrants some historical and philosophical analysis for its peculiar harmonizing character. Nicolaus’ interpretation of Aristotle’s Prime Mover seems to have been combined with the fundamental Christian view about the second person of the Trinity. According to this view, the Christ is ὁ λόγος as found already in the first words of St. John’s Gospel (λόγος belongs to Aristotle’s standard terminology to indicate the formal cause, see Metaph. passim, e.g. 983a28). Can the final cause be understood as representing the Spirit ? Certainly the final cause might be identified as the soul, in accordance with Aristotle’s natural philosophy, and especially with his definition of soul as the final cause or perfection (ἐντελέχεια) of the living being in De Anima II. While the Holy Spirit is not identical with Aristotle’s soul, the idea of perfection is often connected to it by Church Fathers (e.g. John of Damascus9). Moreover, the concept of “final cause” can be regarded as an expression of God’s perfection in truth, knowledge, will and love as we will see in some later, namely Mediaeval sources for Christian theology.
The fact that Nicolaus's ideas anticipate Christian notions regarding the Trinity does not mean, however, that we should move up the dating for Nicolaus.  Instead I would argue that the Trinity is in fact a secondary phenomenon within Christianity.  It developed from the very same period - and under the very same Imperial pressure - as we see document in the fragment preserved by Abu'l Fath.

The gospel itself - at least in its original form - had to explicit reference to the Trinity.  We should instead imagine that the pre-existent Aristotelian notion of a tripartite division in the godhead was used to 'correct' heretical beliefs to the contrary.

(1) in point of fact I am really a 'non-existent' opinion' as I have never formally published anything on the subject.  But I have thought, written, blogged, considered the problem of Marcion for over 30 years.

Monday, December 18, 2017

An Example of the Veneration of the Number Four in the Christian Tradition Before the Four Gospels Were Canonized

From the so-called Valentinian Exposition at Nag Hammadi:
I will speak my mystery to those who are mine and to those who will be mine. Moreover it is these who have known him who is, the Father, that is, the Root of the All, the Ineffable One who dwells in the Monad. He dwells alone in silence, and silence is tranquility since, after all, he was a Monad and no one was before him. He dwells in the Dyad and in the Pair, and his Pair is Silence. And he possessed the All dwelling within him. And as for Intention and Persistence, Love and Permanence, they are indeed unbegotten. God came forth: the Son, Mind of the All, that is, it is from the Root of the All that even his Thought stems, since he had this one (the Son) in Mind. For on behalf of the All, he received an alien Thought since there were nothing before him. From that place it is he who moved [...] a gushing spring. Now this is the Root of the All and Monad without any one before him. Now the second spring exists in silence and speaks with him alone. And the Fourth accordingly is he who restricted himself in the Fourth: while dwelling in the Three-hundred-sixtieth, he first brought himself (forth), and in the Second he revealed his will, and in the Fourth he spread himself out.

Is it Coincidence that the Gospel of John is Called 'the Spiritual Gospel'?

This is what Clement of Alexandria - the ultimate 'Platonist Christian' - tells us about the Gospel of John, the fourth gospel in the canon.  But was it placed 'fourth' in the arrangement of texts because it was designed to be this 'spiritual gospel'?  In other words, did the pre-existent Christian interest in the Tetrad determine not only the 'desirability' of having 'four gospels' but also arranging the first three to be more or less 'identical' in basic structure and then the 'fourth' - i.e. the gospel of John - as something different because it was the 'fourth' - i.e. that it was related to the veneration of the holy tetrad?

It is worth noting that Philo already sees the creation of the heavenly beings on the fourth day as related to the holiness of the tetrad. In his explanation of this part of Genesis, in particular the fourth day of creation, Philo explicitly lays bear the importance of the number four within the context of the Hellenic philosophical tradition, a tradition marked quite clearly:
But the heaven was afterwards duly decked in a perfect number, namely four. This number it would be no error to call the base and source of ten, the complete number; for what ten is actually, this, as is evident, ten is potentially; that is to say that, if the numbers from one to four be added together, they will produce ten, and this is the limit set to the otherwise unlimited succession of numbers; round this as a turning-point they wheel and retrace their steps. 
Philo describes the underlying perfection, or completeness, inherent in the number four.  The tetrad was a Pythagorean numerical understanding related to the number four (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10).  In Aristotelian terms the number four potentiality ten.

Philo also describes the sense of motion, or cyclical nature implied by this number four, which actuates to the number ten, as a “turning point” and “wheel”, alluding to the base ten that was used by the Greeks for counting and within which after the number ten one begins to “count again”, starting with eleven, twelve and so on. Philo also describes the number four as embedding within it three dimensional space, making it the perfect day (symbolically speaking of course) within which God should establish the foundations of the heavens within which the world of man was thought to be governed in antiquity, and speaking to the importance the field of geometry held to the ancients, a tradition that became the hallmark of the West.

Philo writes:
There is also another property of the number four very marvelous to state and to contemplate with the mind. For this number was the first to show the nature of the solid, the numbers before it referring to things without actual substance. For under the head of one what is called in geometry a point falls, under that of two a line. For if one extend itself, two is formed, and if a point extend itself, a line is formed: and a line is length without breadth; if breadth be added, there results a surface, which comes under the category of three: to bring it to a solid surface needs one thing, depth, and the addition of this to three produces four. The result of all this is that this number is a thing of vast importance. It was this number that has led us out of the realm of incorporeal existence patent only to the intellect, and has introduced us to the conception of a body of three dimensions, which by its nature first comes within the range of our senses. 
And lastly, in reference to the four elements, and four seasons upon which the ground and order of human existence ultimately rests, Philo concludes with the following summation:
There are several other powers of which four has the command, which we shall have to point out in fuller detail in the special treatise devoted to it. Suffice it to add just this, that four was made the starting-point of the creation of heaven and the world; for the four elements, out of which this universe was fashioned, issued, as it were from a fountain, from the numeral four; and, beside this, so also did the four seasons of the year, which are responsible for the coming into being of animals and plants, the year having a fourfold division into winter and spring and summer and autumn. 
The point of course is that it is unmistakable that the Gospel of John, the fourth gospel, is very different from the three that proceed it in the canon.  The other three have the same basic order and verbatim linguistic features shared in common.  John stands almost completely outside the other three.  Could it be that it was designed that way?  Could it be that as the fourth gospel it was designed with a specific 'spiritual' purpose in mind? 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

How Dog Breeding is Like the Creation of the Four Canonical Gospels

That however, which is now investigated is the tetrad ... So far therefore as it is called animal itself, it is the monad of the nature of all animals, intellectual, vital, and corporeal; but so far as it comprehends at the same time the male and female nature, it is a duad; for these subsist in an appropriate manner in all the orders of animals, in one way in the gods, in another in daemons, and in another in mortals; but so far as from this duad, it gives subsistence to the four ideas of animals in itself, it is a tetrad; for the fourfold fabrication of things proceeds according to these ideas, and the first productive cause of wholes is the tetrad. Plato therefore teaching this tetradic power of the paradigm, and the most unical ideas of mundane natures, says, that they are four, comprehended in one animal itself. For there is one idea there, animal itself; and there is also a duad, viz. the female and the male ... [t]here is also a tetrad; and as far as to this, intelligible forms proceed into other productive principles according to a different number ... For there the tetrad subsists proceeding from the intelligible monad, and filling the demiurgic decad. For "divine number," according to the Pythagorean hymn upon it, "proceeds from the retreats of the undecaying monad, till it arrives at the divine tetrad, which produces the mother of all things, the universal recipient, venerable, placing a boundary about all things, undeviating and unwearied, which both immortal gods and earth-born men call the sacred decad." [Proclus on the Plato of Timaeus]
'Have you read the gospels?' It sounds on the surface like there are many witnesses to the life of Jesus Christ.  At least, that's what you think until you dig a little deeper.  Most scholars, people who have spent a long time studying these sources, have concluded that the gospels of Matthew and Luke derive their origins from the gospel of Mark.

Of course given the fact that scholars are a mostly reserved lot, they present this evidence in a humdrum manner.  They try and frame the situation as one of 'borrowing' rather than really what is or what it would be called if one of their students named 'Matthew' or 'Luke' submitted a paper which as many verbatim or near verbatim sounding passages from a paper they already submitted paper from another student named Mark - namely plagiarism.

Scholars tend to get caught up in the microcosmic relationship between these forgeries rather than what I take to be the much more fascinating situation in the 'big picture.'  Why were the two forgeries, the close-to-original source material and another gospel which bears very little resemblance to the other three, bundled together as the single true gospel of the Christian religion?  It is by far one of the most bizarre things that ever happened in the history of literature.

It makes sense that the Harry Potter series would be bundled as a 'one narrative.' The same holds true of any number of other authors who take a main character and tell his story in a chronological or near chronological series of books.  But why would Matthew, Mark and Luke have been bundled together given their obvious bond in forgery?

Perhaps the simple answer is that as forgeries they often record near verbatim accounts of the same incidents.  Having more than one record clearly helps reinforce that there is one underlying truth - even if this effect was accomplished through literary copying.  You see new mothers and infatuated lovers showing their friends picture after picture of the same person even if it was from the same camera taken at the same time and on the same day.

The Gospel of Luke quite clearly makes explicit that he has in his possession earlier literary reports that he used to manufacture his narrative.  Nevertheless it does seem odd that - at least to me - that we have ended up canonizing a bundled truth like our four canonical gospels.  We rarely end up with four winners standing together on a podium at the Olympics.  It would seem strange for a woman to profess her love for four men as 'her only' beloveds.

We have come to expect what we might call a 'monarchian' truth in the real world.

In most religions then it is - one God, one book and one individual who knows the truth and saves the world.  In Christianity you have the one God and the one savior but in the end what appears to be a secondary or derivative collection of witnesses to the greatness of that story.  Why wasn't Matthew satisfied with Mark's account?  Why did he feel free to add to his predecessor's story?  The standard answer is that Mark was too short and Matthew and Luke wanted to 'fill in the gaps' which they saw in his information.  I don't find that answer very satisfactory for a number of reasons, most obviously that they filled their books with a lot of rubbish.

The most obvious example of this tendency to add unreliable bits of information is the birth narrative.  Sure we want to know more about Jesus's background but he clearly wasn't born through a Virgin Birth.  Another plainly useless addition to the Markan narrative is the conclusion.  There never has a resurrection and the addition of plainly incredible stories like this to the original narrative only serves to question the reliability of the other less spectacular bits of information added to the derivative gospels.

On the one hand the fact Matthew and Luke wanted to add wholly nonsensical stories involving angels and other supernatural things makes it unlikely that any reasonable person should want to bundle them together with Mark.  Nevertheless the gospel of Mark on its own - with its rather sudden opening and closing narratives - hardly justifies the creation of a new religion.  To that end once you explain that who Jesus was and what happened to him when he died, you pave the way for a ritualized veneration of this remarkable individual.

Yet as satisfying as this explanation it doesn't completely explain why it took exactly four gospels to complete the Christian religion.  Why if the literary critics of the Church wanted a new beginning and ending didn't they simply expand Mark and canonize the longer new gospel?  Clearly early Christians used and liked so-called 'gospel harmonies.'  What about a canonical set of four often contradictory gospels as source material for a single 'patchwork' narrative seemed preferable to the Fathers of the Catholic Church?

It is only when you start thinking about the question of why four should be preferable to one that you end up in some rather unexpected places - answers that make you question traditional assumptions about why the canonical gospels were published as a set.  For while 'one' is a holy number - it is, as the modern song suggests, the loneliest number.  Ancient mystics noted that one was not a productive number.  Productivity begins with a binary pair and so one leads to two and two can lead either to three, by addition, and four by multiplication.  And since multiplication was understood to be embodiment of productivity, four was in many ways considered to be the most sacred of numbers.

Before I hear the uninformed moan about the 'useless' nature of such 'speculation' the facts are that we have to first acknowledge that the first individual to mention the sanctity of the canon of four gospels also report the pervasiveness of the veneration of the number four in pre-existent Christian communities.  Indeed Irenaeus, long before he unveils his 'holy four' collection goes out of his way to tell us that the 'heretics' imagine that there was a cosmic significance to the number four.  The Cosmic Four our sprang forth out of the Holy One after the speculation of the ancient philosopher Pythagoras.

Indeed it wasn't just the earliest Christians but the even earlier Jews of Alexandria and elsewhere likely who saw deep significance in numerology.  The Pentateuch was filled with numerological significance because the universe itself was coded with numbers.  There were numbers in heaven not merely in terms of the layers in heaven - seven - but also in the very fabric of creation.

So the question becomes is it a coincidence that Irenaeus, while reporting to us that all those who came before him understood a Cosmic Four or 'Tetrad' in heaven goes on to add that - oh by the way, the correct number of gospels is four too.  This question has never before been asked or at least examined in any sustained manner.  Nevertheless if you look carefully at his wording as he unveils his Literary Four or quarternion, he looks to the cosmos to justify its correctness.  There are four winds, four corners of the map, four beings around the chariot of the Creator - so should there be four gospels.

Indeed he goes one step further and uses the very Cosmic Four, the Tetrad, as an effective tool against those who believe in the 'hocus pocus' of the Cosmic Tetrad.  He speaks the language of the very gnostics he criticizes.  There are four types of heretics - the Ebionites, Adoptionists, Marcionites and Valentinians each of which 'miraculously' conform to the preordained correctness of the four canonical gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).  This can't be coincidence, he declares, presumably alluding to the fact that God knew ahead of time that there would be four principal heresies which Irenaeus's dutifully collected in his tome Against the False Gnostics.

But if Irenaeus manufactured a treatise which recognized the correctness of the Four, what exactly is admonishing the 'false gnostics' for doing?  The overly simplistic answer that is sometimes current among scholars of early Christianity is that Irenaeus was suggesting that knowledge about God is absolutely impossible outside a rigidly defined creed.  This is not what Irenaeus believed.  Indeed there are numerous points in his book where Irenaeus 'lets out' that he is a mystic - for instance when he faults the gnostics for using the Greek name of Jesus to venerate the ogdoad.

The truth is that the name Jesus has to be preserved in Hebrew, he declares.  There is a mystery here in that each letter is an acronym for a phrase from the Pentateuch. Unfortunately for those of us trying to make sense of Irenaeus what he wrote after making this unusual point is now lost to us or better preserved in a fragmentary form - the scribes that came after him simply couldn't follow his argument because they didn't speak or write in Hebrew.  So we are left with a bunch of literary gibberish every time Irenaeus profess the superiority of Hebrew in the surviving Latin translation.

Yet the underlying distinction is made - even if it is rarely appreciated.  Irenaeus's isn't saying that it is heresy to speculate about numbers.  Irenaeus does this all the time and thinks it to be 'cool.'  His main beef is that the false gnostics engage in numerology based on the Greek text of the Bible which 'isn't cool' as Greek is not a holy language while the mother tongue of the ancient Israelites is.

To this end, it must be declared that when Irenaeus criticized the 'false gnostics' he was doing so on the basis that their speculations were modern inventions of individuals working in a profane language - Greek.  The first gospel was according him, the gospel of Matthew, it was originally written not surprisingly in Hebrew.  As such it should not at all be surprising that when he looks to the reason why the correct number of gospels was pre-ordained to be four, he mostly draws from examples four in the Hebrew scriptures.  Of course it was common 'scientific' knowledge at the time that the 'four elements,' the stoicheia as they were called in Greek - air, water, fire and earth - were the building blocks of all things.  So too was it with his four canonical gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

In other words, it is not at all incredible to suggest that Irenaeus would have set out to create or build a canon of four gospels which together were 'the holy gospel' because of a pre-existent notion in Christianity that four was a sacred number.  At its most basic the followers of a 'false gnostic' named Mark simply said in the Jewish fashion that numbers were code to the universe and a Cosmic Four - the Tetrad - existed in heaven.  Yet there were Valentinians who argued that in fact there were two Tetrads that made a cosmic eight.  Irenaeus didn't like one group who emphasized the number eight so he spent time criticizing these men.  Similarly there was another group who argued that gospel told the story of the formation of Jesus Christ as a coming together of four elements after Jesus's baptism.  He didn't care too much for them either.

Yet the fact that there were so many groups and individuals who were obsessed with the number four before the unveiling of Irenaeus's gospel of four it makes it very difficult to argue against the idea that he conformed the shape of his canon to the very enemies he claimed to despised.  As such, it is a misrepresentation to argue that Catholicism, the tradition associated with Irenaeus was a complete break from the gnostic past.  Indeed it is was undeniable that when the Greek text of the Pentateuch describes Moses's encounter with the divinity they present him as a gnostic.  Irenaeus's emphasizing the existence of 'false gnostics' in the modern age necessarily assumed that there were also 'true gnostics' lurking in the past.  The world had just lost its way and were now following charlatans pretending to be heirs of a glorious past.

So then we arrive at a most preposterous conclusion about the formation of the Catholic canon.  Irenaeus presented Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as a kind of cosmic literary DNA - stoicheia if you will - the air, water, earth and fire - of all the other gospels which were floating around the world causing havoc in the Church.  The way Irenaeus speaks about these texts and their relation to the false gnostics before him makes it clear that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John hadn't yet been known to the world in their true, idealized form.  They were in the hands of individual heretics as individual texts, the Ebionites using a bastardized copy of Matthew, the Adoptionists a poor copy of Mark, the Marcionites Luke and so on.  But now at the dawn - or perhaps the close - of an extended period of glory for the Church, Irenaeus had isolated the pure isotope of each of the four textual stoicheia and presented it to the Christian community in its pure, idealized form.

I know this is difficult for people to wrap their heads around because - quite frankly - it is so artificial and so obtuse.  Nevertheless I think that the great minds of the study of early Christianity assume a 'natural' or innocent origin to the canonical set.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are still envisioned as having 'grown' in an idealized 'literary garden of Eden' where devoted and sincere Christians plucked them out of their native soil in Italy, Greece or wherever they imagine these texts to have been cultivated.

Irenaeus stood very much in the stream of Middle Platonism.  To argue that all the heretics were 'influenced by Plato' and Irenaeus wasn't is simply foolish.  The truth is much more complex than that.  I would argue that Irenaeus wasn't as much preserving for us 'natural' texts but breeding idealized ones for us in the manner of the Platonic guardians in the Republic.  Just as Plato knew that the horses were bred and the idealized horse was realized through breeding so too were the true texts of the gospel rescued through a similar literary process.  Plato thinks that the principles which are observed in breeding animals should also be observed in breeding human beings. Hence he applies the terminology of the former to the latter.  Irenaeus, I would argue, applied Platonism to rescuing the gospel from the 'false gnostics.' 

Irenaeus never speaks of any group that faithfully preserved the four canonical gospels before him.  He speaks of the Roman church faithfully preserving an apostolic succession list for their community and nothing more. There is no pedigree for this 'pure set' after initiating his discussion of modern Christianity with a portrait of a world in shambles.  The texts just appear - almost from his own imagination - and then the sudden appearance of the idealized texts are used to combat the individual reference to 'passages' within the set collection by the 'false gnostics' who preceded him.  Irenaeus shines a light into a dark world like Diogenes, but the newness of the lantern he holds is what makes his appearance revolutionary.

I get tired of naive assumptions of modern scholarship about the origins of the canonical gospels.  They imagine the Church Fathers to be the precursors of the modern academic mostly because of their own lack of imagination.  With the danger of sounding disrespectful I can only present a personal story to demonstrate a similar lack of understanding of my own.

I remember when I got my first dog - a white (of course) Bichon Frise - that I assumed that her ancestors were white because that color helped them survive in the snowy mountain tops which must have been their original home.  Stupid me, dog breeding is the practice of mating selected dogs with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics.  This breeding relies on the science of genetics, so the breeder with a knowledge of canine genetics, health, and the intended use for the dogs attempts to breed suitable dogs.  As such Bichons were white simply because they were intended characteristics on the part of the original breeders.

Yet the assumptions of scholars with the respect to the canonical gospels is similarly naive.  We assume but Irenaeus never says, that he 'found' the canonical four.  The reason it is assumed that he stumbled upon them is because this is how texts are discovered by modern academics.  But Irenaeus wasn't a modern academic.  There is absolutely no evidence that he discovered or faithfully preserved a pre-existent collection.  In fact all signs point the other way.  Justin Martyr, a man he clearly portrays himself as following, used a single long 'gospel harmony' and not the canonical four.  Irenaeus doesn't even try to explain - or 'correct' - the discrepancy.

To this end, there is no proof either way, how it was that the canonical gospels came into the world.  But since Christ came miraculously, the same possibility should be extended to canonical four.  It seems entirely plausible that Irenaeus bred them as a set of four because 'fourness' was deemed or perceived to be a desirable characteristic.  Irenaeus wasn't practicing philology but husbandry when he isolated Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Already we see him decry 'additions' and 'subtractions' made to what we might call the 'gene pool' of each of the four stoicheia.  There should be no surprise to find out that he just turned around the process of what we might call the 'mongrelization' of the gospels.  This is after all the true sense or meaning of 'adultery' in the Ten Commandments.

Selective breeding was certainly practiced by the Romans and ancient societies before them.  Indeed Plato must have known this when he spoke about the 'horseness' of horses and the like. Perfect horses weren't understood to spring up from the mud of creation.  Ideal horses were bred which is why the Republic describes the guardians actively involving themselves in selective breeding.

As an 11th century Persian treatise notes "[t]he agriculturist selects his corn, letting grow as much as he requires, and tearing out the remainder.  The forester leaves those branches which he perceives to be excellent, whilst he cuts away all others. The bees kill those of their kind who only eat, but do not work in their beehive." This is how one gets back to the idealized 'form' behind 'that which emerges from the mud.'  This is what husbandry entails, this is certainly how Irenaeus arrived as his primal Tetrad of the gospel.

Irenaeus's purposes have always been misunderstood and so the attempt to reconcile the synoptics with a natural 'source' (Q) or with themselves is so misguided.  Irenaeus wasn't engaged in philology as much as husbandry.  As a neo-Platonist he was attempting to isolate the cosmic stoicheia behind all the mongrel gospels that were in the hands of the 'false gnostics.'  He by nature must have claimed to be the true gnostic, guiding the lost sheep through the valley of darkness.  Since the consensus seemed to be that a Primal Four existed before the world and the gospel was created so Irenaeus supposed to isolate a canonical set of four - the ideal primordial four - by pattern established by Plato in the Republic.

How was this accomplished?  The general understanding is already preserved in Against the False Gnostics.  All we need to do is add water.  As Irenaeus supposed that the 'false gnostics' used the art of the popular 'Homeocentones' to breed their literary monstrosities his methodology must have simply been to reverse the uncontrolled breeding process. Why else does Irenaeus - and later Tertullian from Irenaeus - take pains to argue that the false gnostics mischievously 'rearranged' the proper order?  The same accusation is found in Papias. The gospel 'sayings' are like stones which can be rearranged in different contexts in order to different meanings.  All Irenaeus had to do was 'isolate' the individual stones and return them back to their original context of the 'great mosaic' intended by the Creator.

Of course this was an inexact science.  Of course we can't take this effort very seriously.  He stood in a long line of pseudo-scientists and so-called polymaths which continues down to this day.  But we can't allow ourselves to keep perpetuating the party line that we operate under the assumption that the gospels developed as a result of natural selection - nature here meaning 'naive' or innocent patterns of textual development.  All signs point to the fact that when Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were bundled together it was a result of deliberate or 'unnatural' selection.  Someone - undoubtedly Irenaeus - wanted to find or isolate a tetrad of stoicheia behind the plethora of 'false gospels' ravaging the Christian world.  The result was the canonical four as a wholly unnatural, idealized literary typology.

The fourness of the canonical set was like the 'cuteness' of any modern breed - it was a desired rather than an unintentional consequence of the overall 'canonizational' effort.  The fourness was established from the outset and carried out to make a convincing end product.  The Christian world already believed in fourness and Irenaeus was going to give it to them.  It was the most natural outcome in the process of the commodification of Holy Writ.  Just as the gnostics like Valentinus expanded an incredible array of 'aeonic powers' in heaven from a primal 'Tetrad' and Mark words within words and sounds deriving from the same Cosmic Four, Irenaeus isolate our canonical gospels as a primal literary tetrad.

There is much we will never know about this possibility.  All that we know is that the pre-existent veneration of the holy 'fourness' must have assisted the reception of the fourfold gospel.  Why else was it 'fourfold'?  The apparent incompatibility of Irenaeus with such 'mystical mumbo jumbo' might  lead us to suspect that the entire construct was something of a literary Trojan Horse.  In other words, by dressing up his 'correction' of previous gospels in the adornment of 'fourness' the Church Father disguised his creation of new literary stoicheia.  It was the by a false 'fourness' that the naive and unsuspecting false gnostics were overcome as the new collection was designed to settle ongoing doctrinal disputes which had been ravaging the Church since the beginning.

But we should never forget, in order to attain eventual ecumenical union, Irenaeus still had to bow down before the altar of fourness.  Alongside the Tetrad of Valentinus and the Tetrad of Mark and a countless arrange of other 'false gnostics' was the 'true Tetrad' of the true gnostic Irenaeus.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Teachings of Jesus Christ as the Teachings of Don Juan Matus

It's impossible to know most things with any degree of certainty.  There is a lot of discussion on the internet about whether or not Jesus had a historical existence.  I think its convenient to assume that Jesus existed.  It allows us to get on to other things which useful and productive.  Being useful and productive is always seen as good things so we 'go with this' understanding.  But in the end, we can't know the truth about Jesus until we know we have the earliest Christian texts about it - and I don't think that's at all true.  So we have to be agnostic about Jesus's existence.

I know this answer isn't going to satisfy anyone.  We live in an age of instant answers and in the end I am not smart enough to match the speed required for giving an answer on this subject.  I guess if you want speed, go to someone else as your 'service provider.'  I am happy taking an agnostic position on the existence of Jesus.  Maybe he existed or maybe he didn't.

I am pretty certain the gospel was intended as something more than mere 'history.'  Whoever the original author was, he had the Pentateuch in its sights and the Pentateuch is more than a story - it's the Law.  I am not even sure the first Israelites who received this text thought it was 'God's word' but that's what it became. Over the course of time a book written by a Hebrew scribe at the beginning of the Persian period masquerading as Moses was taken to be a book written by God.  I bet Moses the magician would have been proud!

But the gospel, in my opinion, wanted to do one better.  Magicians love to outdo one another.  If the one guy can make a woman disappear, the next guy does the act with a jumbo jet.  That's how these guys work.  The Jews had the story of how their fathers were friendly with God; the Christians literally made God their father.  That's the story of the gospel.  Even though it's present as the story of Jesus it's really, secretly about the way Christians became God's chosen people. 

Of course, in the end you can read any story any way you want to. We don't live in an age where heresy is actively persecuted or identified.  The fact that on surface indeed the text resembles a history of some sort is part of the magicians craft.  But to take the story as essentially being a history, well that is another matter entirely.  As I said we live in a free world, we can do what ever we want. If you go one step further and take away any trace of symbolism or allegory from the text you read the gospel as if Jesus was giving advice on husbandry, marriage, child rearing, yard work and other inanities.  So in the end, any concerted obtuseness can transform the gospel into an ancient precursor of the Farmers Almanac.

But to say that the gospel doesn't develop from myth-making ignores some basic facts.  Jesus is portrayed as something of a mythopoet.  Why is that?  Was Jesus really a maker of parables or is Jesus's parable-making nothing more than a clue planted by the author to understand his literary purpose?   The portrait of Jesus the parable-maker might well be like looking at an image of ourselves in a mirror looking at ourselves in the mirror.  The gospel is Jesus is telling stories about people like Jesus in a story written by someone like Jesus.

In fact Jesus is a lot like the stick figures from his parables.  Jesus only tells us as much as we need to know about the man who buries a treasure just as the author offers us the barest of outlines about his Jesus.  Why doesn't he just remove Jesus from the dizzying vertigo of looking at ourselves looking into the mirror?  Jesus is portrayed as weaving riddles and allegories because he is nothing more than the double of the mythopoet who is the gospel writer.  Jesus is a walking stick man, a man who has no history or at least a man's whose history is unknown to the author.

Maybe the author heard about a crucified man and wanted to use him as the protagonist for his extended parable which is the gospel.  It's possible.  And that makes Jesus a historical figure.  Fine.  But if we learn something from the gospel it is from only what the gospel writer wants us to see, it is only from what the gospel writer knows from his own reality.  The Marcionites thought Paul wrote the original gospel and various texts tell us his only say Jesus in a vision.  Maybe there was a historical Jesus, but all we have now is a stolen copy of Paul's original dream of Jesus.  Good luck finding history in that! 

No wonder Jesus can only tell parables or act symbolically.  He's little more than a punchline in a gag.  He has no childhood reminiscences because he had no childhood.  He has no stories of lost loves, relationship problems, illnesses or any of the things you can't escape when you are forced to make your way through existence, because he never lived.  He's given a tabla rasa because he is a virgin, not only with respect to sexuality but with regards to this world.

Indeed it is impossible not to see the similarity between Jesus and one of the faceless, nameless figures from his own parables.  Go beyond the citation of Isaiah chapter 40 and the Gospel of Mark opens like a joke making the rounds at a bar - 'A rabbi walks into a bar ...'   That's why it is so strange to see Jesus depicted as a maker of parables.  He's the double of the gospel writer, the evangelist who tells the story of Jesus evangelizing.

The gospel on some level is a parallel universe to the author's own world.  What Jesus did, the author now does.  He tells the story of how he came to be, through an account of Jesus's becoming.  Yet the author doesn't go on to mention himself seeing, hearing or knowing this precursor, this literary doppleganger.   Jesus is the 'rabbi' of the original evangelist's extended parable.  A man walks into a synagogue and ended getting crucified.  You can hear it as a punchline over a couple of beers in its rough form or you can wait and see it stretched out to a written narrative.  The choice is yours.

Is Rodney Dangerfield's wife really that fat?  How fat is she?  Do any of the things that the comedian tells his audience happened to him the other day actually happen the way he tells it?  Did they happen at all?  We don't care.  They're all so funny because what he says is so true!  But what if they aren't true at all?  We don't care as long as he makes us laugh.

It's the same way with the gospel.  It's a story about hierophant as told by a mystagogue.  Copperfield on Houdini.  When one puts the other in the box, we shouldn't be surprised to find them switch places by the end of the 'act.'  Watching Jesus walk on the earth in the gospel narrative I am reminded of Casteneda's dream reality when Don Juan instructs him to look at his hand after he has fallen asleep and entered in another world.  Casteneda tells us that eventually he manages to summon enough power to do the impossible - he raises his hand in the dream and stares at his palm.  Don Juan promises that he can visit with people in the waking world and they will mistake him for his real self and he will have unlimited power.

The Teachings of Don Juan were written as history and Juan Matus is still believed by some to be a historical shaman.  Carlos Casteneda's books have a 'cult-like' following no less than the gospel did in its earliest years.  It is impossible to prove that the young UCLA professor did not in fact meet a Mexican shaman.  Juan Matus like Jesus occupies a midpoint between pure history and pure fiction.  I find it difficult to believe that any argument for the existence of Jesus can be made stronger than the case for the existence of Juan Matus - this in spite of the fact that we live within a few years of Casteneda's death.

As my grade 10 English teacher once said, 'even as fiction it's great stuff.'  So too the gospel ...

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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