Origins of Christianity

Osiris-Dionysus had such universal appeal because he was seen as an ‘Everyman’ figure who symbolically represented each initiate. Through understanding the allegorical myth of the Mystery godman, initiates could become aware that, like Osiris-Dionysus, they were also ‘God made flesh’. They too were immortal Spirit trapped within a physical body. Through sharing in the death of Osiris-Dionysus initiates symbolically ‘died’ to their lower earthly nature. Through sharing in his resurrection they were spiritually reborn and experienced their eternal and divine essence. This was the profound mystical teaching that the myth of Osiris-Dionysus encoded for those initiated into the Inner Mysteries, the truth of which initiates directly experienced for themselves.

Far from being a Christian heresy, the broad philosophical tradition known as Gnosticism was the original Christianity which developed from the pagan mysteries. The gnostics did not necessarily deny the historicity of the gospel story of Jesus’ life as it was an essential part of the outer mysteries of Christianity, which were designed to attract new would-be initiates. But any literal interpretation of the Jesus story was only the first step presented to spiritual beginners, while the inner mysteries revealed that it was not a factual account of God’s one and only visit to earth, but a mystical story designed to help each of us become a christ by achieving union with our higher, spiritual self.

However, a rival literalist school of Christians developed, which regarded the Jesus myth as historical fact and dismissed the idea of it having a deeper meaning. The gnostic Christians viewed such literalism as superficial and simple-minded. Pagan writers, too, launched scathing attacks on the irrational beliefs of literalist Christians, and denounced Christianity as an inferior imitation of the perennial philosophy of the mysteries. The philosopher Celsus, for example, dismissed the notion that God could literally father a child on a mortal woman as plainly absurd, and described the doctrine of everlasting punishment or reward as ‘absolutely offensive’. In the late 3rd century the pagan philosopher Porphyry stated that promising any criminal that he would be absolved of his sins and enter paradise as long as he was baptized before he died undermined the very foundations of a society of decent human beings. The gnostics regarded a literal belief in the resurrection as the ‘faith of fools’. Even the 3rd-century Christian philosopher Origen dismissed literalist Christianity as a ‘popular, irrational faith’, and stated bluntly: ‘Christ crucified is teaching for babes’ .

Origins of Christianity

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