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The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name

 

The Immortality Key, by the American author and lawyer Brian C. Muraresku, is at once entertaining, annoying, important, and badly argued. They key assertion is that the ancient mystery religions used psychoactive doped beer or wine, akin in its effects to psilocybin experiences of today. He does us a great service in reminding the present that the Eleusinian Mysteries, as they were called, involved a ceremonial consumption of psychoactive chemicals of unknown nature, and that the pilgrimage and associated ceremonies acted as the centre of a religious cult that lasted for centuries if not millennia. The Eleusisian Mysteries were not some trivial affair. The site, and its ceremonies, acted as the major cultic centre of the ancient Greek-speaking world. Romans too participated.

To summarize the argument, Muraresku claims:

  • that Eleusis (a city near Athens) was the centre of a cult that involved psychoactive chemicals absorbed in religious context. Though the participants were sworn to secrecy, enough has been written about the effects of the ceremonies to give a reasonable confidence that whatever went on there caused participants to have profound psychic events that erased in them the fear of death.
  • Other centres of such ceremonial consumption of psychoactive beer and wine existed in the Greek-speaking world.
  • That some early Greek-speaking Christians practiced holy communions of a similar type. This is called the “pagan continuity thesis”. It means that Christianity emerged out of the interaction of Judaism with a Greek-speaking, wine drinking culture and that, to be accepted by the Greeks, the core ceremonies of Christianity were made attractive to the followers of Dionysus, god of wine. Although Muraresku is not clear on this point, it appears from his argument that some but not all early Christian house churches of the Greek speaking world practiced a communion with pyschoactive chemicals.
  • This form of holy communion with the body and blood of the living God was suppressed by Roman Catholic Church authorities in the course of time.
  • The Roman and other churches have been offering a placebo communion for the last two thousand years.
  • The suppression of witches in the 16th and 17th centuries was a further continuing suppression of ancient female-borne knowledge of psychoactive chemicals.

The first two points are very likely to be true. The third is a stretch, but it could be true. The fourth point, suppression of psychoactive communions,  depends on the third point being true, because there might have been no psychoactive chemical communions to suppress. The fifth point, that what is offered in communion to this day is a placebo, a substitute for the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the true God, constitutes (I believe) a huge mistake as to what the Chritian message is. The last point, that the suppression of witches was the suppression of female centred drug knowledge, seems plausible

Muraresku calls this the “pagan continuity with psychoactive twist” thesis.

I find it significant that the author has never tried psychoactive chemicals of any kind.  Thus his arguments cannot be refuted or defended against by saying he is a drug adept. For the same reason they also partake of a complete innocence of the issue.  In my experience, psychoactive chemicals, such as psilocybin and other entheogens, have to be approached in a spirit of religious awe, and in a completely secure and preferably beautiful setting. The reasons for this is obvious to anyone who has tripped. Nor should they be done in a crowd. Not everyone can handle it. Some might be in a very bad mental space. For many practical reasons, you cannot have thousands of people tripping on acid or psilocybin every Sunday. It is hard to see how the Church could have become universal in time and place if its core ceremonhy had remained (if it ever had been) a quasi-private drug initiation.

Yet none of these reasons of prudential wisdom capture my real objection to the Muraresku thesis. Whether you are tripping or stone cold sober, you are required to believe certain impossible propositions in order to be a Christian. Impossible to nature that is. The idea that Christ rose from the dead is not made any more likely depending on the chemicals in your brain at the time of hearing the news. And if it were made to seem more likely by the consumption of entheogens, then the Gospel message would be made to look ridiculous in the sober light of the day after the trip. Either way, you may get to belief through psychoactive chemicals, or not arrive at belief at all. Pschoactive chemicals can loosen tightly bound minds. They do not bring one to belief, however.

Belief is not knowledge. If we knew, belief would be superfluous. I do not have to believe the car is in the garage if I see it parked there. Belief is what you reserve for what you cannot prove.

For a brilliant discussion of Christianity’s revolutionary message and effects, you are far better off reading Tom Holland’s Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World. 

As a prose stylist and as a historian, Holland is a far superior writer to Muraresku.

 

In Dominion, Holland reminds us of just how revolutionary it was for God to sacrifice his son to the humiliating death of a slave, through crucifixion.

I have no objection to psychoactive drugs taken in religious ceremonies, or for therapy, or for any solemn exploration whatever. But I do not believe that Christianity’s core sacrament is made valid or invalid according as we are stoned on enthogens at the time of participation.

Finally, as a lawyer, and therefore as an crafter of arguments, Brian Muraresku needs to be reminded that a paragraph consisting of a series of questions, however suggestive, does not constitute a rational discussion. State your argument, man! Say it boldly! His book would have benefitted from a reader who was ready to challenge him by asking: “what are you really saying here, Brian?”. “And if you really believe it, say it!” The book suffers from too much narration of the author doing his reasearch and talking with sources, and not enough careful exposition and handling of obvious counter-arguments. In the long run, no one needs to know what kind of day it was when he visited the Vatican Library.

Still, Muraresku has written an annoying, interesting, badly-flawed but possibly important book. Holland’s by contrast, is impeccable in style and content, and I commend it unreservedly.

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Brian Muraresku appeared with Graham Hancock on the  Joe Rogan show. He did not have time to get to the last three arguments noted above in bullets.

 

 

 

 

 

It takes a Catholic

A Roman Catholic is best suited to slag the current Pope. David Warren rises to the occasion.

Pontification

Allow me to agree with Pope Francis that Holy Church owes the world some “outreach.” Of our 266 popes (plus or minus), I mention that one in particular because he has had more to say about politics than, possibly, all the rest combined. His views on social class, income distribution, imperialism, colonialism, general oppression, environmental issues, anthropogenic climate, immigration controls, and many other topics not traditionally considered to be any of the Church’s business, are broadcast constantly. Moreover, his neglect of her primary mission — the salvation of souls through propagation of the faith — has underlined this by contrast….

Today’s dose of cultural doomism: Richard Fernandez on the fate of the Church and western society in general

I have a great deal of time and respect for the Roman Church, and vehement disagreements with it. However, on the fundamental questions of what Christianity is and means, it is sound. Here is the American Richard Fernandez writing on the fate of the Church, the universities and society. I could not have imagined the speed or thoroughness of the total moral collapse of the West that I grew up in. I would block and copy Fernandez’ article in its entirety, but shall content myself with this reference:

“[Pope]Benedict’s recollections [of the perversion of Roman Catholic seminaries into homosexual cliques] might be of little interest to non-Catholics did they not so closely mirror the recent experience of the secular West. As the devil was taking over the seminaries, something was also seizing the great universities of Europe and America, turning them into bastions of political correctness. Everything that happened inside the Church also happened outside with astounding swiftness. In less than 20 years, marriage was redefined from its centuries-old meaning as a union between a man and woman to include homosexuals. Abortion became a progressive sacrament. Concepts of gender and race, which some had thought to be immutable, were transformed in a few short years into a veritable smorgasbord of categories. Slate tells us Facebook offers users 56 genders to choose from.

“Although the fires that damaged the Notre Dame in Paris and almost started at St. Patrick’s in New York City during Holy Week seemed to underscore the disaster that had overtaken the Church, Rod Dreher points out that the flameless burning of the Western world’s secular cathedrals has been happening for some time. An ongoing and relentless purge of politically incorrect academic thought at institutions of higher learning has been proceeding apace. Librarians call it weeding and have already removed millions of books from campus collections. “At the University of California, Santa Cruz … the removal of 80,000 books from the Science and Engineering Library last summer sparked uproar among faculty … more than 60 science and math faculty members signed a letter to university librarian M. Elizabeth Cowell complaining they hadn’t been adequately consulted on which books could be discarded and which ones had to be saved.” It’s not fringe behavior, but a program abroad in the noonday sun. Dreher points out that a senior librarian at MIT openly regards “white” books as a waste of space and a legacy of oppression. Her article in the Association of Research Libraries argues the challenge now is to “build diverse and inclusive library environments that contribute to social justice.”

And so forth, endlessly. The hideous strength of white supremacy is observed even in dog walking.

I refrain from a daily re-iterations of alarm and despair at the decline of the moral backbone of the West, of what used to be Christian civilization, because I do not want this blog to become a Gates of Vienna, a Vlad Tepes or a Jihad Watch. But make no mistake: I agree with their analysis and perspectives. For me, Islam is not the enemy so much as it is the adventitious bacterium that invades the body politic when it has lost its antibodies. The anti-white-ism, anti-male-ism and anti-Christianity comes from this society, not from outside it. Trump is not remotely the answer to this dire situation of collapsing culture, but at least the rot has stopped, for the time being, in high places.

Now for the universities.

Please read the Richard Fernandez article.

The Burial of Richard III

It took a few centuries for the political passions to settle and for the bones to be found. He then received a proper burial ceremony. A proper and fitting ceremony for a dead king.

For a good commentary on his successor, Henry VII Tudor, father of Henry VIII and grandfather of Elizabeth I, see this.

Some of the kings of England have been weasels, main-chancers, weak, unscrupulous murderers, and traitors, even. Although Charles 1st thought that it was impossible for him to have committed treason, Parliament demonstrated to him otherwise by lopping off his head in 1647. With the passage of political leadership to the institution of Prime Minister, it is their assistants rather than kings’ minions who shove a knife into their enemies these days. The Wars of the Roses makes the resignations of the Gerald Butts and the Clerk of Privy Council seem like small stuff.

Jordan Peterson, Presbyterian Divine

The most important aspect of the story today about Jordan Peterson being rejected for a stint at the Cambridge school of divinity is not that they rescinded his application. No sir. What is of interest in the story is that the greatest Calvinist in living memory has found his proper metier, as a minister of the Christian religion.

It took him a while, but it was inevitable. The search for truth leads you where it goes, and the Word of God is more durable than stone.

Psychic interpretation of laws and “charter values”

David Cole in Taki’s Magazine draws attention to a pertinent point: when you are guilty of thoughtcrime, your actual words are of no importance to the leftist inquisitor. This is bad enough in ordinary encounters among civilians, but when the habit spreads to the Supreme Court of the United States, the psychic approach to interpreting laws can have disastrous consequences. By psychic approach I mean the habit of endowing oneself with powers of knowing that someone has bad intentions despite fair, scrupulous, neutral or lawful language expressing them.

Which brings us to the Supreme Court, and why Americans need to appreciate the bullet we dodged in November 2016. Hillary would have given us another Sotomayor to replace Scalia, and now, another one to replace Kennedy. And the peril of too many Sotomayors (or just one, frankly) was laid bare last week in the “wise Latina’s” dissent in the Trump travel-ban ruling. The facts in the case were fairly clear: The travel ban does not cover only Muslim nations, and the Muslim nations it does cover represent only a small portion of the Muslim world. There is no wording in the ban that is anti-Muslim, and the nations affected by the ban had been identified by the previous administration as high-risk for terrorism.

The ban, as Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority, is “neutral on its face.”

Sotomayor, however, writing for the minority, donned her psychic sombrero and took a different approach. Yes, the ban might be neutral as written, but Trump’s statements while on the campaign trail indicated that his intent was to craft a Muslim ban, even if he didn’t. Therefore, the ban must be ruled unconstitutional because Trump initially wanted something unconstitutional, even if what he actually did was not unconstitutional.

Call her Yogi Master Sonia, because that’s one hell of a contortion.

…..Sotomayor’s dissent relies on something known as legislative intent. Among legal scholars, there’s a long-running debate: To what extent should a court take into account the intent of a law’s author(s) when ruling on the legality of that law? The prevailing school of thought in American jurisprudence is that courts should abide by the “plain meaning rule.” In essence, that means that if a law is clear and unambiguous in its text, the court need not, or should not, try to mind-read the intent of the author(s). This was the reasoning of the majority in its decision on the travel ban. The text of the directive is plain, the directive falls within the president’s legitimate powers, and the directive has a legitimate reason for being (national security).

From the leftist perspective, thoughtcrime is the issue, not the facts or the plain statements of the law. Leftists are authorized to see thoughtcrime or heresy in any person. When dealing with a heretic, no respect for human dignity or conscience is to be given.

We suffer from a something even more pernicious in Canada, I submit. This is the view that there exists something called “charter values” which are the in the exclusive domain of the Supreme Court justices to find and apply. Sotomayor, the “wise Latina” knows you have bad intentions. The Supreme Court of Canada knows, by contrast, that its intentions are pure, so that it is free to invent stuff that is nowhere in the written language of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the Constitution Act, 1982.

Bruce Pardy writes about the Trinity-Western decision of our own Supreme Court, which ruled that the Law Societies of British Columbia and Ontario were within their rights to refuse to recognize Trinity Western as a law school.

“It’s a vibe kind of thing”. Only they did not use such words, they called upon “charter values”, not the actual words in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. to legitimize their distaste for an explicitly Christian law school.

On June 15, the court ended Trinity Western University’s quest to open a law school. The university had challenged the refusal of the law societies of B.C. and Ontario to approve the school. The law societies did not question the quality of the legal education to be delivered but objected to Trinity’s “community covenant,” which requires its students and faculty to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” A majority of the court found that the law societies were entitled to violate Trinity’s religious freedom in the name of “Charter values.” While freedom of religion is guaranteed as a fundamental freedom in section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Charter values are found nowhere in the text. They are, yes, “just the vibe of the thing,” used by the Court to trump actual Charter rights and remake the Constitution.

Trinity’s covenant, the majority said, imposed inequitable barriers on entry, especially for LGBTQ students, and held that the actions of the law societies reflected a “proportionate balancing” of the Charter protections at play. It may sound fair and reasonable but it is actually profoundly twisted. The case did not feature competing Charter protections. Trinity’s religious freedoms were not pitted against the equality rights of LGBTQ persons because no such rights existed. The Charter does not apply against anyone but the state. As a private religious institution, Trinity was not subject to the Charter or for that matter to the B.C. Human Rights Code. Trinity was the only party with Charter rights, enforceable against the law societies as agencies of the state. Calling the covenant an “inequitable barrier” is disingenuous. Religious communities consist of private persons gathering together and agreeing on a code to which they choose to adhere. They impose those standards on no one but themselves. No one is forced to join them and no one has the right to go to their law school, which is part of a private religious institution. There is nothing to “balance.” Until, of course, the court invokes Charter values. You know, the vibe of the thing.

…Turns out Charter values aren’t the vibe of the actual thing at all, but a competing set of moral judgments that exists in the Court’s imagination. The Charter was conceived and drafted as a roster of individual negative rights that protected against interference from an overbearing state. Charter values, as articulated by the court, are collectivist values of progressives: (substantive) equality, (social) justice and (group) dignity. Charter values are decidedly not the individual liberty values of classical liberals or the traditionalist virtues of conservatives.

When I say that the Supreme Court of Canada is just making shit up, I mean exactly what I say, and they are doing so on a vast and unconstitutional scale.

To borrow the language of the two dissident justices of the Supreme Court:

The majority’s continued reliance on values protected by the Charter as equivalent to rights is similarly troubling. Resorting to Charter values as a counterweight to constitutionalized and judicially defined Charter rights is a highly questionable practice. Charter values are unsourced, amorphous and, just as importantly, undefined. The majority’s preferred value of equality is, without further definition, too vague a notion on which to ground a claim to equal treatment in any and all concrete situations, such as admission to a law school. A value of equality is, therefore, a questionable notion against which to balance the exercise by the TWU community of its Charter‑protected rights.

I leave it to you to discuss which may be worse: the notion that the judiciary can declare an act illegal because its members feel that it was motivated by  thoughtcrime,  which they can discern from their insights into the state of your soul, on the one hand, or the idea that the judiciary can make up entire categories of law (Charter values) that have no statutory basis whatever.

Which makes you feel more insecure in your remaining rights and freedoms?

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PS Strangely, and welcomed, is the opinion piece in the CBC site, of all places, by Anna Su:

It is almost comedic for the Court majority to unconsciously invoke the promotion of diversity — which it did in upholding the law societies’ decision not to accredit TWU’s law school —as if it only means one thing. But as Justices Suzanne Côté and Russell Brown wrote in their dissent, tolerance and accommodation of difference, including religious difference, also serve the public interest and foster pluralism.

Remember what I said a few weeks ago: we are living in a Liberal Oceania. Ignorance is strength, freedom is slavery, and diversity is uniformity.

 

Two good pieces from Warren on the state of Canada

David Warren continues to dismay me somewhat with the quality of his writing. Here are two recent pieces on the state of Canada. I am unable to disagree with the overall assessment, though by temperament I am more hopeful. Which is to say that I disagree with his gloominess, though unable to reason why.

Tutti in coda (I)

Canadians thus find themselves in the vanguard of something happening throughout the West, and indeed, around the world. We don’t go out because it’s cold outside. The average Canadian, more than, say, the average Italian, is trapped in a centrally-heated interior. More and more, we live inside our computers. In a larger, cosmic sense we go stir-crazy.

But no revolutionary impulse follows from this. We’ve all come a long way, since 1968. Instead there is a growing disconnexion, from reality in all its known human forms. Canada may be a little more disconnected, but the direction we are travelling from our former orbit is much the same. We have the illusion of being at the front of a social revolution, when really we’re at the back of beyond, merely witnessing our own social dissolution.

Now, add in the evaporation of Christianity, and a further difficulty appears. We are without the moral or spiritual means to make a recovery.

Is it that bad? Sometimes I think so.

A Christian Arab and an Levantine Jew were talking about Islam

Their insights into how a minority comes to dominate a majority are worth heeding. (The relevant portion starts about 20 minutes into the conversation).

Gad Saad and Nicholas Nassim Taleb in conversation.

In Arabic, “din” means ‘law’. In Hebrew “din” means ‘religion’.

Slow Islamization of the West is accomplished through two simple rules: 1. Once you get in you cannot get out. 2. If any of the parents are Muslim, all the children are Muslim.

A very slow conversion rate results in a society that, after a 1000 years, goes from 95% Christian to 95% Muslim.

Only the Wahhabist faction of Islam is truly dangerous, says Taleb. Wahhabism drives the tolerant majority of Muslims to intolerance. Shia and other forms of Islam are not a problem.

The same dynamic of intolerant minorities works on campuses. The social justice warriors drive universities because they are an intolerant minority.

Having heard this, I understand better why, in the Scottish Reformation, a Scottish earl chained a bunch of  extreme Calvinists to a rock and drowned them at high tide. He understood the power of intolerant minorities.

Taleb: “Anything that does not involve costly signalling is not a religion. Gods demand sacrifices. No sacrifices: no religion.”

One of the costly methods of signalling your Christianity – or freedom from Islam – is not eat the sacrificial meat of Islam, halal. Costly signalling is the basis of real religion, says Taleb.

Read David Warren

I have had and continue to have the greatest respect for David Warren but in this speech he overtops himself. You should read this speech he gave recently. It summarizes completely my attitude towards the general trend of Canadian society and the Liberal regime, which he calls the Twisted Nanny state. The specific instance is the checking the boxes issue for receiving funds from Trudeau’s inclusive liberal state.

He has posted a series of essays in recent days that ought to have the widest possible circulation among conservative people.

No State really cares what its people believe, so long as they keep it to themselves, and salute the State’s gods on all State occasions. The State’s gods today may be Abortion and Sodomy and Gender Metamorphosis. We might want to laugh at the idiocy of it. But they are gods, State gods, and every citizen must salute, as we see in this form-ticking exercise. Those who refuse must confront the State’s high opinion of itself.

Remember:

Diversity means ‘uniformity of thought’

Inclusion means ‘exclusion (of whites, males and Christians)’

Progress means ‘anything progressives say it means’.

Anglican tourism

One of the pleasures of being in a nearly world-wide religion associated with the British Empire and its offshoots is to go into a church and know roughly what sort of people you will meet (educated and pleasant), what sort of religious thought you will be exposed to (Christian eclectic), and to be among the faithful. I have been at St. James in Paddington, London, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, built in 1191 (the established church kept the cathedral at the time of the Reformation), and elsewhere across the planet.

Today it was Christ the Redeemer in Sarasota, Florida, where our hosts are congregants. By happenstance, we ran into an organist practising there, who welcomed us in. We were treated to Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A-minor, BWV 543, described by the organist as a mature work of the great master, and a transcription of Fredrick Delius’  “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring”, appropriate because the composer spent time in Florida. It produced in me a spiritual stillness for which one longs but seldom finds.

A youtube version is found here.

The organist is James Walton. He referred me to his youtubes, one of which is here.

Finally, I give you Robin Williams’ ten top reasons for being Episcopalian.

Top Ten Reasons for being an Episcopalian:

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female, God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7.You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is colour-coded.

4. Free wine on Sundays.

3. All of the pageantry, none of the guilt.

2. You don’t know how to swim to get baptized.

1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

A more serious and profound set of reasons in presented here.