How religious esotericism is really just a form of lying

“Esoteric writing” can generally be defined as writing in which an author uses a word or words to mean one thing (namely, the “inner,” or “secretly intended,” or “esotericmeaning) in his own mind and perhaps also in the minds of close associates, while the general reading public, being unaware of the author’s secretly intended meaning, is left to assign a different meaning to that same word (namely, the “outer,” or “ordinary,” or “conventional,” or “surface,” or “exotericmeaning).  In other words, “esoteric communication,” or “esotericism,” is really just a fancy and euphemistic name for the practice of lying and deception.  Unfortunately, it is a practice that characterizes and provides the basis for all of the so-called “major world religions,” including Christianity.  And not only the “major” religions:  I am not aware of a single traditional religion anywhere in the world, including among all the so-called “shamanistic” or “primitive” religions, that does not or did not employ “secret languages” as a means by which to conceal knowledge from the “uninitiated” members of the religious community.

At the same time, I have also come to the conclusion that the authors of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible were actually, at least to some extent, opposed to the practice of esotericism, and through their writings, were subtly and surreptitiously working against it.  That is to say—whether or not they were fully aware of it—they were providing later generations with means by which to help them slough off these oppressive systems of organized deception and deliberate confusion.  I think that the “subversiveness” to be found in the Bible must have been mostly the result of some sort of unconscious or non-conscious (or, if one prefers, “divinely providential”) process at work, in conjunction with a limited amount of conscious awareness by those authors of the problems associated with religious esotericism.  (Passages such as John 16:25 show that the authors of the Bible must have had at least some conscious awareness of the problematic nature of religious esotericism, and must have realized that the esotericist type of religious discourse was somehow defective and less than ideal—which would have presumably given rise to a hope that it might someday be replaced by a new type of religious discourse that would be more ideal.)

However, it is often very difficult if not impossible to determine exactly how much of the anti-esotericist “subversiveness” that one might discern in a particular passage from the Bible was consciously intended by the author, and exactly how much was unconsciously intended (and I do consider an “unconscious intention” to be a genuine kind of intention), since the two types of thinking can easily blend together.  And to make matters even more complicated, there is the additional question of whether non-human mental influences may have sometimes played a role in (quite deliberately) planting an “anti-esotericist message” in the Bible even in spite of the human authors’ complete unawareness of that message in a given instance (and this would again raise the question of possible “divine providence”); but that is a question I won’t pursue here.

Before going any further, let me give you an example of how the esotericist deception works by telling you a little story about myself:

I worked for forty years in West Virginia as a coal miner.  I now receive health benefits from the federal government because of the fact that I got black lung disease as a result of my job.

Now, by ordinary standards, what I just told you is a flat-out lie.  I have never worked as a coal miner.  I have never lived in West Virginia.  But an esotericist has a neat trick he can use to make a passage like that suddenly become “all true” in his own mind.  He simply puts invisible quotation marks around various words and then supplies each of those words or phrases with his own private, secret definitions.  Doing this serves basically the same function in his own mind as that served by a child crossing his fingers behind his back when he tells a lie.  Practitioners of this trickery will often give their secret definitions a euphemistic name, such as “the spiritual meaning.”  Now watch and begin to perceive the deep “spirituality” contained within my own little fib story:

I “worked” “for forty years” “in West Virginia” as a “coal miner.”  I now “receive health benefits” from the “federal government” because of the fact that I got “black lung disease” as a result of “my job.”

Continue reading “How religious esotericism is really just a form of lying”

An overview of “truth groups” and the “honesty culture” strategy (longer, anti-esotericist version)

(The following post constitutes virtually the entirety of the updated final section of Part I of my “Against the Lie” essay.  If you do not consider yourself an “anti-esotericist,” or are still unfamiliar with the subject matter of religious esotericism and have not yet formed any opinions with regard to it, then I recommend that you instead read a shorter version of this post which does not discuss the subject of religious esotericism or its relevance to an “honesty culture” social strategy.)

 

“Principle is not limited by Precedent.”
—Thomas Troward

I believe that it would actually be possible to solve the age-old problem of lying and dishonesty in human affairs if there were only a relatively small number of people who were willing to consistently adhere to a strategy based on the formation of what might be called “truth groups” (or “honesty groups,” to be more precise).  I certainly make no claim that the thorough elimination of dishonesty in society would be achieved in the very near future by using this strategy; but I do believe that, in time, it would be achieved.  (Incidentally, I also envision that these same “truth groups” would constitute the nuclei or beginning cores around which the moral communities that I describe elsewhere might come to form—with each of these moral communities practicing a non-esoteric religion or practical philosophy of its choice.)

I propose that members of truth groups would make four pledges, the first three being the most important to stress.  First:  They will never lie, either to each other or to outsiders—not even to those who have lied to them.  (There would be a single exception to this blanket “never lie” rule:  a kind of “self-defense” or “self-protection” exception that would apply in cases in which an individual’s personal privacy or autonomy was being unreasonably threatened—for example, by being asked intrusive and impertinent questions.)[1]  SecondTo the extent that they are reasonably able, they will never tolerate lying by others.  ThirdTo the extent that they are reasonably able, they will never tolerate the condoning (or promoting, or endorsing, or enabling) by others of lying by others.  Fourth:  They will strive to reduce how much they lie to themselves (at least to the extent they are able to do so, given that some degree of self-deception in every person is inevitable, and one must fight a never-ending battle against it).[2]

A particular truth group could be formed around any interest that its members shared in common, or any mission or goal that they wished to jointly pursue.  Any currently-existing group or association, including a small business, a non-profit organization, or an informal club, could always choose to additionally identify as a “truth group.”  Members of different truth groups wouldn’t need to have anything in common with one another except a shared desire to promote the development of a thoroughly honest society.[3]

Continue reading “An overview of “truth groups” and the “honesty culture” strategy (longer, anti-esotericist version)”

How we can know that Paul never regarded “Jesus Christ” as a flesh-and-blood person

In Galatians 1:11-12 the apostle Paul writes,

For I make known to you, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught (it), but (I received it) through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Notice that Paul seems to be implying that a gospel received “from man,” at second-hand, is inferior to a direct revelation from Jesus Christ.  And that idea seems to be consistent with Galatians 1:15-20, in which Paul goes on to write,

But when it pleased God—the one who separated me from my mother’s womb and who called me through his grace—to reveal his Son in me so that I might announce the good news about him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to the apostles (who were apostles) before me, but I went off into Arabia, and again returned to Damascus.  Then, after three years [!], I went up to Jerusalem to become personally acquainted with Cephas [i.e., “Peter”; see John 1:42], and I stayed with him for fifteen days.  But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord [which is almost certainly a kind of metaphorical “title,” not the literal description of a biological relation; cf. John 20:17, Philemon 1:1, and Galatians 1:11, quoted just above].  And take heed, (in) the things I write to you, (I swear) before God, I do not lie.

Notice that Paul is saying all this as if it gave added credibility to his claim of having received a revelation from Jesus Christ, and to the content of that revelation.  He apparently didn’t want people to think that he was just passing along second-hand “revelation stories” that he had heard from others.  Moreover, it seems that Paul didn’t feel that he had much to learn from the other apostles, since anything he learned from them would have been merely “according to man.”  He had already had his own personal, direct revelation—just as the other apostles had had theirs.  (In fact, I think it’s reasonable to surmise that having had a personal, direct revelation from “Jesus Christ” is what was considered to make an “apostle” an apostle.)

As far as I am concerned, this passage provides virtually irrefutable proof that Paul did not regard “Jesus Christ” as an actual, historical, flesh-and-blood individual.  Note that Paul makes a point of saying that after Jesus was revealed to him, he did not go to see any of the other apostles in Jerusalem.  Instead, he waited three years before going to see them.  If Paul understood Jesus to be an historical individual, one whom Paul now believed to be the one and only eternal Son of God, wouldn’t he have made it his absolute top priority in life to go as quickly as possible to the disciples/apostles who personally knew Jesus and spent time with him, so that he could learn everything that he possibly could about Jesus’s life and teachings from those who had witnessed everything first-hand?  Wasn’t Paul concerned that some of them might die or forget some important things during that lengthy period of three years?  Not all that much, it seems.

A Christian may be inclined to suggest that Paul, as a result of his personal revelation from Jesus Christ, must have already learned everything about Jesus Christ and his teachings that was possibly worth knowing.  But how could he have known that to be true without first having spoken with the other apostles to find out what exactly Jesus had taught them, and what they had personally witnessed of his life, death, and resurrection?  I would also ask that same Christian why, according to the traditional Christian account, God bothered to reveal himself in the flesh at all—if that is indeed an inferior and unnecessary way of going about revealing himself to human beings.  Why didn’t God just reveal himself directly to all of the apostles in the form of “visions”?  Well, I’m arguing that—at least according to how Paul saw things—that’s exactly what God did.

Galatians 1:15-20 shows that whatever exactly Paul understood “Jesus Christ” to mean—and it is admittedly evident that some notion of “Jesus Christ” did have great significance for Paul—it is not even conceivable to the mind of a reasonable person that Paul understood him to be an historical, flesh-and-blood individual.

The figure of Jesus seen as the “cut-off member” of the Jewish “body”

I ask you to be a bit patient as I go about helping you to see what appears to be an esoteric meaning contained in one of Jesus’s parables—a meaning which, if I am correct in believing that it was probably intended by the authors of the Gospels (whether consciously or unconsciously), would be quite remarkable.  I recommend that the first time you read the Bible passages quoted below, that you only read the text in red, and skip the bracketed material.  I also recommend that you not refer to the endnotes the first time you read the post.

The particular parable I have in mind can be found in Matthew 5:29-30, in which Jesus says,

And if your right eye causes you to be offended [or to stumble, or to offend, or to become indignant, or to be led into temptation, or to get stuck, or to get tripped up; more literally, to be ensnared: skandalizō], pluck it out [or pull it out, or lift it out, or take it out, or rescue it: ex-aireō][1] and cast [or send: ballō] (it) away from [apo] you.  For it is profitable [or advantageous: sympherō] for you that [hina] one [hen] of your members [melos] should perish [or be ruined, or be destroyed: apollymi, a word that appears to be derived from apo-lyō, which can mean “to cut loose, to detach, to cut off, to cut away”], and (the) whole [holos] (of) your body [sōma] not be cast [or sent: ballō] into Gehenna [or hell: geenna].[2]  And if your right hand[3] causes you to be offended [or to stumble: skandalizō], cut it off [ek-koptō] and cast [or send: ballō] (it) away from [apo] you.[4]  For it is profitable [sympherō] for you that [hina] one [hen] of your members [melos] should perish [apollymi], and (the) whole [holos] (of) your body [sōma] not go away [ap-erchomai] into Gehenna [or hell: geenna].[5]

Compare the quoted passage to John 11:47-53, which says,

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together [syn-agō] the Council [or Sanhedrin: synedrion] and said, “What do we do (now)?  For this man does many signs.  If we let him go on in this way, everyone will believe [or be persuaded: pisteuō] unto him, and the Romans will come and will take away [or destroy: airō] from us both the (holy) place and the nation [or people: ethnos].”  But one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You understand nothing at all.  Nor are you considering that it is profitable [sympherō] for us that [hina] one [heis] man [anthrōpos] should perish [or die: apothnéskō] for the sake of the people [laos, not ethnos], and (the) whole [holos] (of) the nation [ethnos, not laos] not be destroyed [or perish, or be ruined, or be lost: apollymi].”  And he said this not of his own accord [more literally, “from himself”], but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die [apothnéskō] for the sake of the nation [ethnos]—and not for the sake of the nation [ethnos] alone, but also so that he might gather together [syn-agō] into one the children of God who had been scattered [dia-skorpizō].[6]  So from that day (on) they made plans [or purposed: bouleuō] to put him to death [apothnéskō].

In other words:  One “member” of the “body” of the people would be made to “perish” in order to benefit the “whole.”

Continue reading “The figure of Jesus seen as the “cut-off member” of the Jewish “body””

The “unclean foods” parable in the Gospels: Jesus lying again

In my writings on this site I repeatedly make the argument that all of the traditional religions practice “esotericism,” meaning that they knowingly make splits between an “outer meaning” and one or more “inner meanings” in their “sacred” communications.  The “outer meaning” is made freely available to “the multitude” or “the profane,” while the (different) “inner meaning” is reserved for the “elect” or “chosen” or “initiates.”  In other words, religions of this type are okay with misleading people.

Here’s an example of what I mean taken from the Bible.  (As you read what I write below, please keep in mind that I don’t believe “Jesus” was an actual, historical, individual, flesh-and-blood human being; I think he was functioning as a fictional, idealized collective representation of the authors of the Gospels, and persons like them.  So by my criticism of “Jesus,” what I am really trying to do is indicate the fact that the authors of the Gospels were oblivious to their own moral flaws—flaws stemming from their approval of religious esotericism—in so far as they were not able to recognize the defects displayed in their own imagined vision of how “the perfect man” would act.)

And having called the multitude to him again, (Jesus) said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and comprehend:  There is nothing outside the man that by going into him can make him unclean, but the things going out of the man are the things making the man unclean.  If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  [Mark 7:14-16.]

Yes, I have ears to hear!  The meaning of the passage is perfectly obvious:  Jesus is telling us that there’s no such thing as a “ritually impure food,” since it’s what comes out of us, after we eat, that makes us unclean.  And after all, isn’t that why we wash our hands after using the toilet?  Just some sound advice from Jesus on the matter of personal hygiene, that’s all.

But wait.  The passage then continues:

And when he had entered the house away from the multitude [or commoners, or crowd: ochlos], his disciples asked him (the meaning of) the parable.  And he said to them, “So are you also without comprehension?  Do you not understand that everything going into the man from outside cannot make him unclean, since it enters not his heart but his belly, and goes out into the latrine, (thus) purifying all foods?”  And he said, “What goes out of the man, that is what makes him unclean.  For from within, out of the heart of man, go forth evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”  [Mark 7:17-22.]

Ohhhhh, now I get it.  The first passage was only giving us the “exoteric meaning,” and, being “common,” I unfortunately got taken in by it.  Stupid me.  But now that we’ve all learned the “esoteric meaning,” we understand that food cannot make people unclean after all—perhaps not even when it “goes out” of the “belly” of the person “into the latrine” in the form of poo.  We now know that it is what comes “out of the heart” that makes a person “unclean” or “defiled”; at least, that’s the only kind of “uncleanliness” that seems to be of concern to Jesus.  So does that mean Jesus is telling us that if we’re true “disciples,” we needn’t be all that concerned with washing our hands after using the toilet, since using the toilet doesn’t actually make us “unclean” in any way that we ought to consider especially important?  It would seem so—at least, so long as we choose to take what Jesus says to his disciples at face value (which might be just as big a mistake as taking what he told “the multitude” at face value—but for the most part I will ignore that line of thinking for present purposes; I will only mention in passing the possibility that words like “food” and “belly” and “hands” may have been understood to have esoteric meanings of their own).

This may sound like a pretty silly suggestion at first, but it begins to appear less silly when the quoted verses are read in the context of the preceding verses of Mark 7:1-8, in which we are told that Jesus’s disciples would refuse to wash their admittedly “unclean hands” before eating.  Regardless of how “hypocritical” the scribes and Pharisees may have been, I still would have been appreciative that they were washing their hands and utensils before eating.  (I don’t wish to get too graphic, so I’ll say nothing more than remind the reader that toilet paper did not exist in ancient times.)

(And by the way, if anyone thinks I’m being vulgar in talking about this subject matter, just remember that the vulgarity came from the Bible, not me; it was Jesus who brought up the subject matter of “latrines” and digested food.  And I’m quite certain that this particular double meaning regarding “the things going out of the man” was meant to be noticed and appreciated by the more “discerning” reader—although, needless to say, prim and proper Christian clergymen have never allowed themselves to devote too much careful thought to what is going on here, even though it’s all to be found in their very own Holy Bible.)

Now, did you notice the little bait-and-switch pulled by Jesus?  Pay close attention to the technique, because esotericists do stuff like this on a regular basis.  Jesus himself later admits to his disciples that his parable involves “food”—that’s what “goes into the man from outside.”  (And if you need even more proof of this, he also explicitly mentions “bellies” and “latrines.”)  So, since Jesus is admittedly thinking about “food” as being that which “goes into the man from outside,” and since Jesus also speaks to the multitude of “the things going out of the man,” the reasonable member of “the multitude” would—if that member made what, it so happens, is the correct assumption that Jesus had “food” in mind—also assume, for the sake of consistency, when Jesus speaks of “the things going out of the man,” he must be referring to “excrement” (or, less likely, “vomit”).

But no—without bothering to make anyone in the multitude “privy” to the secret “esoteric meaning” of his parable, he surreptitiously allowed his “food” reference—along with what would appear to be the reasonable understanding of “the multitude”—to just pass away “into the latrine,” so that, when alone with his disciples, he could instead talk about something entirely different:  namely, “what goes forth out of the heart,” which according to him consists of evil mental tendencies and vices.  In short, what Jesus did was to suddenly “switch body organs” behind the backs of “the multitude.”  And they had been given absolutely no reason to expect that he would do so.  But even in spite of that fact, Jesus still feels justified in expressing impatience with and contempt for the multitude by saying to his disciples, “So are you also without comprehension?”—as if the multitude’s “lack of comprehension” was their problem, rather than a result of Jesus’s own difficulty at communicating—in public, anyway—in a clear, honest, and straightforward way.

Continue reading “The “unclean foods” parable in the Gospels: Jesus lying again”