As I have said in earlier posts, there are two kinds of knowledge: the knowledge that is passed down from one generation to generation, and then there is revealed knowledge. Both types of knowledge depend on human perception: those skills we have that allow us to see, hear, smell, touch and taste the world around us. Most people accept the data from their census as an accurate representation of the world around us. The most positivistic of these realists except only knowledge/reality that is experienced by the five senses. They record their apperception’s (the data from their census) and try to draw “logical” conclusions from their apperception. They pretend that this data and their conclusions are totally objectified. These are the ideas that form the basis of modern science.
However, there are some people who are able to come up with some new idea (theory) purely through intuition. This is “revealed” knowledge or gnosis. Most founders of religions have this ability. They are what Max Weber called “charismatics.” Their authority and their power was rooted in their intuitive abilities. Obviously, Jesus was such a charismatic. However, there have been people we commonly referred to as scientists, Albert Einstein for instance, who had extraordinary intuitive abilities. Einstein’s theory of relativity came to him out of the blue. It was an extraordinary intuitive insight that literally turned what was then the scientific traditions on their heads. Scientists are still trying to come to grips with this theory.
Both kinds of knowledge are passed on from generation to generation, either orally, pictorially, or in writing. This passing on of knowledge is called tradition. We humans tend to treat these traditions as “written in stone.” This is true of both religions and science, although, I must say, science seems a bit more flexible about its traditions. Religions develop bureaucratic structures as the tradition is passed from generation to generation. These bureaucracies are, as are all bureaucracies, self-serving, resistant to change in the tradition, and concerned mainly with maintaining/increasing their power. Christianity is no different.
When Constantine the Great and his successors made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Christianity was assimilated by the Roman bureaucracy. One of the oldest titles for the Pope, the bishop of Rome, is still in use today: Pontifex Maximus (Supreme Pontiff). This was originally the title of the Roman high priest, the head of the Roman religion, and if it was not the Emperor himself, the pontiff was the second most powerful man in the Empire. Many of the Roman pagan bureaucrats, including clergy and other religious bureaucrats, converted to Christianity and took over similar positions within the Christian bureaucracy.
These Roman Christian bureaucrats, to maintain and increase their power within Christianity, first selected the books that would be considered the Christian canon. They then close that canon and allowed no new books to be added to the canon. The early centuries of Christianity saw many charismatic “leaders” come and go. All of them were greeted by the Christian bureaucracy with a great deal of skepticism grounded in their bureaucratic fear of change. After all, the acceptance of a new charismatic leader would do to Christianity what Einstein’s theory of relativity did to science. It would turn Christianity on his head. The idea that Mary Magdalene may have been the wife of Jesus and the mother of his children is one such idea that would shake the Christian bureaucracy to its knees. The Gnostic Gospel of Mary and the Gnostic Gospel of Phillip both stress the fact that Jesus and Magdalene were more than just friends. Jesus loved her more than the others. Mary is presented as the true successor to Jesus in her gospel. What if both those things were true?
Like it’s “spiritual” ancestor Judaism, Christianity in its traditional forms is very patriarchal and extremely chauvinistic. Paul in a couple of his letters basically says women in church should be separate from the man, have their heads covered, and be seen and not heard. Sounds like a certain religion that many American Christians find reprehensible. Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black! To me, one of the biggest faults of fundamentalist Christianity (the Christianity rooted in tradition) is its incredible and outrageous hypocrisy.
In some of my other posts here I have talked a little bit about mystics and mysticism. It is the mystics who are the receptors/generators of gnosis. It is the mystics historically who have challenged the established religious bureaucracy. This is true in all religions. Jesus challenged the Jewish bureaucracy of his time. Buddha challenged the Hindu bureaucracy of his time. Mohammed challenged the pagan bureaucracy of Saudi Arabia in his time. Martin Luther challenged the Catholic bureaucracy of his time. John Calvin challenged the Christian bureaucracy of his time. And the list goes on and on and on. Sadly, most of the Christian mystics were branded as heretics and their teachings were not only forbidden, but any evidence was destroyed by the powers that be. Starting in the fourth century, that meant the Roman empire. I suspect that the Dead Sea scrolls were hidden in caves to keep them out of the hands of the Roman Christian “book burners”. The only accepted references to these heretics and their teachings that were not destroyed by the Roman Christians were the references in anti-heretical texts written by Christian apologists like Augustine Irenaeus, and Tertullian. It is problematic whether these references presented the actual teachings of the heretics. Unless we discover sometime in the future verifiable of their actual teachings, I would recommend being very skeptical about what heretics like Pelagius actually taught.
Like the canonical St. Paul, the heretics claimed revealed knowledge of Jesus and his teachings. The Christian bureaucracy closed the possibility of new revealed knowledge as well as new canonical. Guess why they did that? The bureaucracy would brook no opposition to its authority and power. That is the nature of bureaucracies, and in case you haven’t figured it out, I hate bureaucracies of all kinds! I am going to close this post here. I will pick up some of the ideas presented here in my posts on the early Christian ecumenical councils and how those councils led to a series of schisms within the Christian community. Until then, I wish you the peace that passes all understanding.