Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jesus The Magician (Post 2: Chapter 1 Summary)

(Prior posts in the series are located in Category "Jesus the Magician")

Chapter 1-

Here the author argues that our knowledge of Jesus stems primarily from the four canonical gospels, other New Testament texts, as well as other early Christian texts (especially writings from among the Church Fathers).* As a foundation for an understanding of Jesus these sources are problematic. Firstly, a vast amount of those who have concerned themselves with these texts have not been historians but rather theologians who have been concerned with making the documents justify their own theological positions. Secondly, the gospels themselves are problematic in that they often contradict themselves. Also, the gospels were not written as history, but were instead composed with the intent to confirm and produce faith in Jesus as “Christ.” Thus, these texts render not a historical Jesus but the Christ of faith.

It is pointed out by Smith that the noted disparity between the idea of a historical Jesus and a Jesus of faith was taken up by liberal scholars who began to search for the “real” Jesus that lay underneath the blanket of a mythological Jesus. Such an endeavor is criticized by the author. Firstly, such studies proved to be virtually useless in that most everything found in the gospels turned out to be mythological. Virtually nothing of a historical Jesus was found. Secondly, the presupposition that there exists a disparity between a Christ of faith as a mythological figure and a Jesus of history that is free from mythological presuppositions is erroneous in itself. It is emphasized that Jesus and his contemporaries were deeply steeped in a mythological world. Thus the thoughts and teachings of Jesus would surely reflect the mythological underpinnings of his age. As a consequence, mythological material in the gospels may indeed reflect historical accounts.

While the author does not dismiss the view of Jesus (Jesus the Son of God) that has emerged from the principle texts (see above), he does draw attention to the fact that they all stem from those who were in some fashion believers in Jesus (however they understood Jesus and the events of his life). It is the author’s position that a well rounded picture of Jesus can only emerge by taking into consideration what the non-believers in Jesus had to say about him as well. However, any account of what these non-believers had to say will be fraught with difficulty and will need to be reconstructed from the fragments of those texts that have survived the Church’s campaign to expunge all traces of “heretical” works beginning in the fourth century with the rule of Emperor Constantine.

*It does not appear that Morton Smith had access to the Nag Hammadi library at the time of the printing of Jesus the Magician.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jesus The Magician (Post 1: Introduction)

Many moons ago, when I was just a college lad, I came across an intriguing book by Morton Smith entitled Jesus the Magician. However, for reasons that I can only now surmise, I never read the book. I would have probably gotten around to reading it eventually had not my interest in Buddhism and all things Eastern replaced my interest in New Testament studies. Today, with an ever increasing interest in magic, Morton’s book has once again piqued my interest.

In Jesus the Magician Morton Smith contends that two prevailing interpretations of Jesus and his “ministry” emerged among the populace of the ancient world who had something to say about the Jesus event. The first interpretation - namely, “Jesus the Son of God,” was the position taken among those followers of Jesus who would eventually triumph in establishing their view as orthodox. The second interpretation – namely, “Jesus the Magician,” was an emerging understanding of Jesus that coexisted with the “Son of God” interpretation but was later expunged from the scene with the mass destruction of its textual sources starting at the time of emperor Constantine in 326 A.D.

In the next several weeks I will be posting chapter summaries of Jesus the Magician as I work my way through the text. It is my hope that these summaries will be of interest to those who have an academic interest in what it meant to be a first century magician in Palestine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Will The Real Truth Please Stand Up.

A few days ago I had a brief discussion with Kalvin. The conversation was short and not very meaningful UNTIL I questioned myself as to whether Kalvin was a real entity or a delusion. Was I conversing with an entity or was I making the whole conversation up in my head? Kalvin got a little irritated that I continued to question his/her existence and instantly demonstrated to me how easy it would be for me to accept his/her existence. In that moment I oscillated between holding Kalvin to be a reality and doubt. This then set off a series of meditations on the nature of reality, belief, truth, knowledge, and reality manipulation. What appears below is some of my thoughts regarding the aforementioned topics. They are recorded here primarily for my own benefit… to establish a foundation for future explorations into my developing models of reality and their practical applications. If anyone gains some benefit from what follows, so much the better.

t=subjective truth/belief

T=objective truth/the real

K= True Knowledge

All human knowledge is subjective truth or belief (t). Such knowledge should be considered as truth claims based upon personal experience and thought. Only when a truth claim or belief (t) corresponds to an objective truth that exists independently of an individual’s thoughts (T) can such a claim or belief be considered True Knowledge. This model assumes that objective truth (T) exists and can be known. Question: By what mechanism can one gauge whether or not one’s subjective truths or beliefs (t) correspond to objective truth (T) and are thus True Knowledge (K)? Tentative answer: We are stuck with our own thoughts and experiences. We have no way of getting outside of ourselves, so we have no means by which to acquire True Knowledge (K) of objective truth (T). This does not deny the reality of objective truth (T), it merely indicates our inability to know that we posses True Knowledge (K).

If the above is correct, then we only have access to subjective truth (t) that is, for any number of reasons, erroneously elevated to True Knowledge (K). If all human knowledge is subjective truth (t), then no truth claim (t) is any truer than another (though it may be more advantageous to adhere to a particular truth claim over another). Ignoring the implications of this position on a large scale (forms of relativism), I would like to consider the impact of this position upon the individual. Knowing that one’s truths are subjective (t) is not the same as accepting them to be without reason or justification. They are bolstered by one’s experiences and thoughts. A person has a huge repertoire of experiences and thoughts to draw upon. Theoretically, such thoughts and experiences could be intentionally utilized to create beliefs or truths (t) that supersede those to which one already adheres. This is similar to the notion of paradigm shifting espoused by some Chaos magicians. I personally feel that paradigm shifting, if at all truly possible (I still question its possibility), is much more difficult and involved than what I am suggesting here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To Heal Or Not To Heal - That Was The Question.

Recently I received notice that a family member is terminally ill and that she is expected to live only a couple of months. Upon hearing the news I was initially quite resigned to her eventual passing. I simply accepted her doctor’s prognosis and considered her plight to be an unalterable condition caused by cells run amok. But then I thought, “Unalterable condition? By what authority do I deem a situation to be unalterable?” I could come up with no good answer to this question. It then occurred to me that if magic works, I mean if it really works, then there is a chance that my magic could change the course of events for this individual. I am ashamed to admit that I was at first somewhat reluctant to commit myself towards magical healing. A whole host of thoughts plagued my mind. Probably the most determining factor was a lack of connection to this individual. We are not particularly close and have not spoken to each another in twenty-some-odd years. In other words, I was somewhat apathetic to her suffering. I also considered the magical probability of altering her illness at this late stage to be very low. Since I am just starting a magical career, would not a major magical failure be detrimental to my practice? Besides, I doubted myself and my magical abilities. How could anything I do have an effect? At some point I was taken aback by these thoughts. Was I really that callous? Was I really more concerned about the effects of a botched healing on my practice (if that should occur) than with the health of a family member? Eventually I mustered the emotional empathy to do a working on her behalf by recognizing that we are connected despite our alienation and that her death will have a impact on those who love her.

Because I am a relative newcomer to magic my repertoire of healing techniques is severely limited. I have been doing some sigil work (both graphic and mantric varieties) and plan to begin working with Bhaisajyaguru (the Medicine/Healing Buddha) and his mantra within a day or two. I now realize that my failure to do something would be far more detrimental to me that any failed magical endeavor could be. If my tenacity will allow, I plan to continue working on her behalf until I hear or her recovery or death.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Death To The Demon Retalitonis

I have been thinking about Retalitonis on and off since I first blogged about him awhile back (read about it here). While it is true that Retalitonis’ influence has been practically nil since that entry, I have come to feel that my relationship with Retalitonis would not be completely eradicated until I did a proper banishing ritual. So, about two hours ago I undertook just such a banishing. First I created an image of Retalitonis. Then I printed his picture and drew his seal alongside his likeness.

After placing the image a short distance in front of me, I performed the Kabbalistic Cross and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I then lit a white candle and called upon Kalvin (see here and here) to come and oversee the ritual. I asked him/her to both guide and protect me. I then called Retalitonis out from me and ordered him into his likeness in front of me. After binding Retalitonis to his image, I again performed the KC and LBRP and gave a license to depart (overkill I know). I then took Retalitonis’ image and ritually slayed him by piercing his image and seal with a ritual dagger. The image was then placed inside a glass jar and burned outside (I don’t know if it was the ink or the type of paper, but this paper was extremely difficult to burn).

Tomorrow the ritual will be complete after I toss the glass jar containing Retalitonis’ ashes into a nearby river.