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Mithras, Sol Invictus, Jesus

A Savior out of Persia

A savior born of a virgin on the 25th of December, birth attended by Magi (Persian priests or wise men) who followed a star from the east, was baptized, taught, crucified, buried in a cave, sent to the underworld and resurrected three days later, at the time we now call Easter, promising to return at the Last Judgment - Son of god, Lord of Light, member of the Holy Trinity.

Of course we all know who THAT is.

Well, no, in fact we don't.

    "Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets weaken the wall; Rome is above the nations, but thou art over all! Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away; Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day!" - Rudyard Kipling

His name was Mithras and he was 'born' some seven centuries before the now-better-known figure who inherited his titles. Mithraism, an offshoot of Persian Zoroastrianism, was a warrior cult dominant among Mede and Parthian (Persian) armies encountered by Rome in its Eastern Campaigns. The Romans brought Mithras home with them, latinized his name to Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun (or Son, as virtually all cultures of the period made no distinction between their 'son' and 'sun' gods), and installed the transplanted religion into the Roman capitol. The cult of Sol Invictus was dominant in Rome from the first century before the present era, and its ruling priesthood occupied the caverns under what is now the Vatican.

After the Roman destruction of the second temple, and consequent diaspora of the Jews from Canaan, Jews became an increasingly significant and dynamic force within many cities of the empire, not least Rome itself. As Rome sacrificed its own citizens in foreign campaigns, replacing the ranks with conquered peoples, it became nearly as hard to find 'native Romans' as it might be to find 'native Americans' in Washington today. The status of the Jews changed from external threat to internal asset, and Jewish religious practices were legalized, finally including the growing Jewish 'Krestian' sect. Eventually the Christian Messiah was merged with Sol Invictus (Mithras), resulting in the official 'Church of Rome'.

    "He who shall not eat of my body, nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved." - Mithraic Communion

The new State Church, or Church-State, outlawed the many competing versions of 'who Jesus really was'. Tertullian, one of the fathers of the New Church (New World Order), when confronted with the eerie resemblance of Christianity to Mithraism, including the Mithraic communion practice of bread and wine, responded that the Devil had created Mithraism 600 years before the birth of Christ in order to confuse the faithful. As Christianity attempted to achieve orthodoxy (Tertullian: "All Christians should speak and believe the same thing"), the book-burning business roared into high gear. It became legal to possess only four of what had previously been 30 to 40 variant gospels. Those who preferred the other versions were in many cases burned with their books. Or starved, stabbed, crucified, or fed to lions who couldn't seem to recognize the difference between real christians and false ones. (In the words of Julian the Apostate, the last anti-Christian Caesar: "The deadliest wild beasts are hardly so savage against human beings as most Christians are against each other.")

Many of the heretic christians belonged to a range of sects loosely known as 'gnostic'. The gnostics, some of whom were pacifists, while others were as eager as the 'Roman Christians' to eliminate the competition by any means available, did share a few fundamental principles. Many were dualists. They believed in a 'pure spirit' distinct from and in antithesis to the 'life of the body'. Which, under prevailing conditions, was admittedly likely to be 'nasty, brutish and short.' The doctrine of Dualism, the idea that a pure spiritual order governed by God is perpetually at war with Evil, whose minions serve Satan or the Devil, derives from Persian Zoroastrian teachings, in which the 'Good God' is named Ahura Mazda, the Devil Ahriman.

A leader of one of the Gnostic sects was Mani, a Persian mystic who attempted to merge the new Christianity with its Zoroastrian (Mithraic) roots. His center of influence was - where else? - Babylon. Mani considered 'the body' as the realm of the Female, hence evil, while light and spirit were the realm of the Male. "Since women are subservient to the Devil, they are the cause of defilement in men." (Pahlevi Texts, from Avesta, Zoroastrian holy book.) The Gospel of the Egyptians, one of the later proscribed Gnostic Gospels, has Jesus saying: "I am come to destroy the works of the Feminine." (Other gnostic gospels, however, depicted Jesus as preferring Mary Magdalene to his male Apostles; the 'Feminist Gnostics' is a story I will pursue in a latter Message.)

If the 'Jesus' of contemporary Christianity is actually a re-embodiment of a Persian mystery religion, how did it come about that he has come down to us as Jewish? The Gospel of Matthew goes to great pains to depict the new Messiah as the 'fulfillment of prophecy', and traces his patrilineal descent from the line of David to Joseph. Then, in a plot twist which would never make it past Creative Writing 101, Matthew tells us Jesus was the product of a 'virgin birth'.

There are numerous problems with the historicity of Jesus, perhaps not the least being that there is no independent Jewish account of his existence. A historian like Josephus Flavus, who details at length the political, military and spiritual struggles between Judea and Rome, finds Jesus and the 'greatest story ever told' not worthy of even a footnote. (An interesting parallel to the Exodus, so prominent in the Torah, so absent from any corroborating Egyptian account.) However, there are accounts of a Yeshua (Jesus) who defied the established Jewish priesthood about 70 years before the date attributed to the birth of Christ, accounts which dovetail well with the 'teacher of righteousness' described in the recently discovered Dead Sea scrolls.

There are also extensive accounts and legends of other competing Messiahs and Miracle Workers from the period - Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus Bar Rabbas - as well as a multitude of 'resurrected sun gods' from virtually every religious tradition of the times. Perhaps we can turn to Paul of Tarsus, the one man most responsible for the spread of early Christianity, for insight into how many stories might have been melded into one:

    "I made myself a Jew to the Jews to win the Jews - . To those who have no (Jewish) Law, I was free of the Law myself - . I made myself all things to all men - . That is how I run intent on winning." - I Corinthians 9:20-25

Whether or not there was a historical figure corresponding to New Testament accounts is subject to the judgment of individuals. My purpose here is only to point out that the wars we are fighting are still the same tired wars of religious orthodoxy.

And do you know that a prominent Iranian (Persian) general has declared Iran ready to launch pre-emptive strikes on any country which assists the United States against the 'Axis of Evil'? Or that the pre-Zoroastrian Goddess of Persia was named Amerita? Or that the US has taken Iranian prisoners in Afghanistan? Or that Afghanistan, along with Iran, was a part of ancient Persia?

((Written several years back))

Copyright 2007 - 2017 by John Sacelli. All Rights Reserved.