24. The Crucifixion Myth
This is a contentious issue - to the extent that it is usually safer not to raise it. Nevertheless, it is too important not to raise, inasmuch as the Crucifixion myth lies at the core of Western culture and has been used as a basis for the whole Western lifestyle. It morally excuses us from responsibility for our acts, or at least channels absolution through agencies such as the priesthood or, in modern times, the prevailing values of the secular, opinion-forming priesthoods of our day. There are many more miles to go in researching this matter too - and the question will not go away.
This is a crucial issue - not just concerning the death of one man, however remarkable he was. It concerns basic ideological issues acting as a cornerstone of Western thinking for at least 1,500 years. It has affected all countries of the world and still affects post-Christian atheistic circles. This cornerstone is: Christ died to redeem our sins. This is interwoven with the medieval doctrine of original sin - the idea that all humans are inherently bad. This essential badness is then seen to need redeeming - however, we ourselves are seen to be incapable of doing so. Thus our sins must be redeemed vicariously, by God, Jesus and his priesthood on Earth.
These two myths have been abused by ecclesiastical manipulation and for consciousness-controlling purposes, to reinforce human doubt in our own innate and autonomous spirituality. Human error and guilt go far back into the ancient past. It is probably true that, had people in Jesus' time and locality been more alive to their spirituality and more responsive to his revolutionary teaching, Jesus would not have been crucified. He was, after all, not seeking to found a religion, but to bring about a kingdom of God on Earth in his own very time.
The idea that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins was a doctrinal issue established after his time, started by St Paul and woven into borrowed pre-Christian ideas of the sacrifice of the spirit. The idea was strengthened by the editing and removal of many of the original gospels from the Christian teaching. These gospels gave information about Jesus' travels outside Palestine, his associates and backers, his relations with women (Mary Magdalene in particular), about the Essenes, wider esoteric beliefs and the state of the region at the time.
Yet, in the approved New Testament gospels, largely hammered out at the Council of Nicaea, many clues exist which give the game away. When Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, two leading Essenes, took Jesus down from the Cross, why was it they took with them healing herbs rather than embalming lotions? Why were the legs of the thieves crucified with Jesus broken by the Romans, but not those of Jesus himself? Why, when Jesus' right side was pierced by a soldier's spear, did blood and water emerge, when clinical death would not allow this? Why was Jesus kept on the cross for but 3-6 hours, when it was known that this man had demonstrated abnormal powers and that it often took longer than this to die on the cross?
Why is it consistently accepted that Joseph's sepulchre, in which Jesus was placed, was emptied by (presumably) supernatural means, when the most logical explanation would be that he escaped or was removed - perhaps to 'disappear' him? Why was Jesus' close association with, if not membership of, the Essenes, covered up? Going back further, how is it that the 'lost years' of Jesus' life, covering eighteen years (from age 12 to roughly 30), remain so mysterious and unrecorded?
This is not the place to fully examine all of the scriptural and documentary evidence and tradition concerning Jesus, trawled from across Eurasia - this is done elsewhere. The question of Jesus' life and passing is currently wide open, despite all attempts to keep it closed. The difficulty is that any researcher is up against some pretty rigid articles of faith and orthodoxy, embracing three religions and many sub-sects - hence that some of the most adventurous research and speculation come from religious outsiders such as the Australian Dr Thiering and the Kashmiri Professor Fida Hassnain.
A few points need making here. Evidence, first unearthed by Nicolas Notovitch in the 1870s-90s, of Jesus' extensive travels in Asia, and subsequently further researched by Meer Izzutoolah, Janet Bock, Nicolai Roerich, Elizabeth Prophet and others, offers far too much information contradictory to Christian doctrine to be ignored. This evidence plausibly suggests that Jesus spent significant periods of his youth in Persia, Afghanistan, India and Tibet, even China, and that he returned that way after the crucifixion, eventually to die in Kashmir.
There is some dispute over the authenticity of his alleged tomb at Rozabal, Srinagar, Kashmir, though these remains and accompanying traditions in Kashmir are quite, though not incontrovertibly, convincing. However, contending burial places such as the Egyptian pyramids, the South of France or Afghanistan do not point to a simple demise at the hands of the Romans outside Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion.
They imply that Jesus' life and mission was not simply local to Palestine. Professor Hassnain, a Kashmiri Sufi Muslim, goes as far as to say that Jesus was a well-travelled world teacher who was, in a sense, posthumously hijacked by Christians to be their own spiritual patron and an eschatological aspect of their God. This matter split Christians in the first few centuries after his time, causing some to be murdered, others (such as the followers of Arius and Pelagius) to be suppressed, and others, such as the Nestorians, to be exiled as far as China.
This is a more important point than meets the eye. Hassnain contends, with Biblical foundation and quoting Quranic and Buddhist records, that Jesus came to minister to all cultures, and particularly to the widely-dispersed Jews (the 'lost sheep') in many parts of the world, and that his travels encompassed many lands. This he suggests to be the reason why Jesus ended his days in Kashmir, where Kashmiri and Tibetan tradition alleges Moses ended his days too.
At the time Kashmir was one of the biggest Jewish centres in the world, dating back to Moses' time. The Bible suggests that not all Jews followed Joshua into Palestine after the Exodus from Egypt, and it is plausible that the forty years spent in the desert (usually taken to be c1280 to 1240 BCE) was not limited to the Sinai peninsula, but could well have encompassed Persia and Afghanistan, since many Afghan tribes count their genealogy back to Moses' time, not to later Jewish periods.
According to Hassnain's and others' scenario, Jesus' mission was to visit the far outposts of the Jewish people, who dispersed over a 1,300 year period from the time of the Exodus to the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions of Israel and Judah. Jews dispersed to refuges as far away as Britain and China - and visits by Jesus are recorded in traditions in both countries. Such travel was indeed logistically possible.
There is also considerable evidence that the Vatican sent out missions over the centuries to collect or destroy all records of these travels, going as far as Tibet, Ethiopia and Britain to do so - a full independent sifting for evidence of the Vatican Library is even today not permitted. A different source suggests Jesus completely encircled the world. When visiting Britain, for example, he is stated to have arrived from Mexico. All this, wildly heretical and completely lacking evidence, nevertheless increases the historical stature of Jesus rather than diminishing it.
The implications of all this are pretty large. It even throws into question the deeply-held Jewish belief that Israel is the Promised Land - a very contentious issue! There have been suggestions that the Promised Land might equally have been Ethiopia or Kashmir - though this is a question for historical interest only rather than informing current political arguments over Israel-Palestine.
Central to this question is the use of the crucifixion as a core element of the Christian teaching, and the Pauline notion that our sins were somehow spiritually alleviated by Jesus' death on the cross. Hassnain suggests, with some logic, that Saul met Jesus in the flesh on the Damascus road after the crucifixion, and that Jesus' challenge to him ("Wherefore persecutest thou me?") probably shocked Paul to the root! After all, this guy was supposed to be dead! Thereafter, Paul, an organisation man, zealously did his best to make up for the tragedy of Jesus' sabotaged mission by creating the beginnings of the Christian faith.
Paul's and his successors' crucifixion myth, many centuries later, had a very insidious effect: it was used to sanction European guilt over the moral depravity of medieval times, offering a 'sin now, pray later' deal. This severely bent the age-old teaching of 'As you sow, so shall you reap', nowadays known as the law of karma, into a more politically convenient form. It brought a fundamental shift of cultural psychology permitting the perpetration of many subsequent European evils.
Much evidence has surfaced that Jesus was part of a much larger Essene conspiracy. The Essenes (or Therapeutae) seemingly had connections with Buddhists in India, Magians in Mesopotamia, philosophers in Greece and Druids in Britain. They were an international order of Jewish communalist mystics, prevailing in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. The missions of Jesus and John the Baptist were intimately tied to the work of the Essenes, fundamentalists seeking to effect a spiritualisation of human society - though more narrowly they have been interpreted as Jewish nationalists too, often linked to a different group, the Zealots.
Judging by their extensive international connections, this nationalism is probably not as emphasised as many make it, even though they were instrumental in the fatal Jewish revolts of the 60s-70s and 120s-130s CE. Obstructed in Israel by the more orthodox Pharisees and Sadducees, they were successful in Egypt, where they influenced Gnosticism and the early Coptic church, and Syria, which became the archbishopric with which all other Asian Christians, such as the Indian Christians of St Thomas, later kept contact. This was undoubtedly a major conspiracy, yet its intents were spiritually-oriented.
Historically, the important issue here is not specifically the life and mission of Jesus the Nazarene, but what happened afterwards. The crucifixion was moulded into a major item of faith in the Catholic church, which itself played a crucial formative role in the later shaping of the European psyche. It gave sanction to a particular form of schizophrenia characteristic of Europeans - one in which atrocity and oppression in and beyond Europe were made psychologically compatible with the use of the Christian creed as a religious teaching and tool of Western culture.
Thus, there is a background link between the work of St Paul, of Emperor Constantine and the early bishops and the modern phenomenon of jeans, t-shirts, burgers and Coca-Cola: the two-pronged attack of armaments and missionaries used by European colonialists from the 1600s onwards became, in the twentieth century, a two-pronged attack of arms, dollars, burgers and gizmos. Meanwhile, the truth of the life of Jesus himself and his many associates remains to be properly clarified.