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James M. Pryse’s Hellenic Restoration of the Gospels

THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ITS HELLENIC AND PRIMITIVE FORM

James Morgan Pryse was an author, theosophist and his brother John founded the Gnostic Society in 1928. In The Apocalypse Unsealed (1910) Pryse published the secret key to decoding esoteric meaning of the Book of Revelation. In 1914, The Restored New Testament (The Hellenic Fragments Freed From The Pseudo-Jewish Interpolations, Harmonized, and Done into English Prose) was published. The Gospels, as depicted by James M. Pryse are interpreted along the lines of ancient philosophy and psychology. This task, he stated, was to undermine the whole structure upon which dogmatic theology was built, restoring the corrupt text approximately to its primitive form.

He demonstrates for example, that the Crucifixion is Hellenic in form, and embodies some of the profoundest truths of archaic religion. He wrote commentaries on the spiritual meaning of the New Testament, attempting to demonstrate that those portions of the New Testament that can be regarded as genuine with exception of a few fragments of the Epistles are prose plagiarisms from ancient Greek sacred poems, and allegorical dramas of the Greek or Eleusinian Mysteries. All the passages the “Iesous-myth” is connected with to the Old Testament are said to be forgeries, given a historical semblance, and staged in Judea.

James M. Pryse furthermore argued, that the present Gospels we have today were the work of forgers, who used notes from the Greek Mystery-rituals to fabricate a sacred scripture upon which to found a new religion. Pryse comments on the Apocalypse, treating it as a prose version of a Greek Mystery-poem. It is noted, that it seemed the Gospel writers were conversant with the esoteric meaning of the original ideas of the ancient symbols they convey, but gave it a Jewish coloring, perhaps to preserve it from being destroyed by the fanatics of the new faith, who were suppressing everything in ancient literature that proved the real origin of Christianity.

This is similar to statements made by the Platonist Alexander Wilder, in his attitude towards Christianity in the second volume of Letters to the Sage. Alexander Wilder explains, that he doubts Jesus existed, and asserts, that the Old Testament Canon was established by the Pharisees, under the Asmanean priest-kings, B.C.E. 180. The Essenes, he adds, did not accept this Canon, but had prophets and scriptures of their own. Matthew and Mark were from their Gospel. He stated, that the Essenes were Mithraists, and that Jesus is a personification, not a person. Jesus is Mithra the Sun crucified every equinox (see Mithraism and Its Influence on Christianity), and his Twelve Apostles are the Twelve Zodiacs. Paul taught, that Jesus was not a man, he says, but the Power and Wisdom of God (see Alexander Wilde’s Credo).

Christians, particularly Catholic, that try to argue against these positions, believe the accuser, like Wilder or Pryse are deliberately trying to cast doubt on Christianity by drawing parallels between the Christian cult and ancient cults.

Dr. Richard Carrier likewise claims to prove that Christianity is the syncretism of the Hellenic mysteries (particularly the Eleusinian and Bacchic mysteries) and Judaism.

James M. Pryse goes beyond, and tries to render the original texts in the language of the mysteries.

THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS, NOT PROPHESIED HISTORY

The thesis of James M. Pryse on the Gospels and others in his work are very eye-opening, especially as regards the text termed Apocalypse, he titles The Initiation of Iâonnês. James Pryse’s task was to show, that the Apocalypse is a book of spiritual development, and not as conventionally taken, to be one giving a prophetic account of history and the future.

James Morgan Pryse, in this highly interesting work, Apocalypse Unsealed: Being an Esoteric Interpretation of Initiation (1910) argued upon the authority of Greek esotericism, that the “Book of the Revelation” of John is not a book detailing the past, nor the future. It is a book designed to dismantle, when interpreted properly, the dogmas of the conventionalists. The thesis is that the Apocalypse vision of Iaonnes (John) is an allegory of Initiation.

οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς,
ὅτι ἤρατε τὴν κλεῖδα τῆς γνώσεως;
αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθ
ατε τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε.

“Woe unto you, conventionalists, for
you took away the key of the sacred science;
you did not enter
and those who are entering you hindered.”
— Luke 11. 52.

The first edition was published in 1910, and contains four chapters:

(i.) The Key to the Gnosis;
(ii.)  The Path to Power;
(iii.) The Riddles of “Revelation”;
(iv.) The Initiation of Iâonnês; including copious illustrations.

James Morgan Pryse’s translations, he says are not based on his own peculiarities. While differing from the authorized version, they are based broadly on the Greek, including understanding of Greek mythology. It demonstrates how the ablest scholars and theologians in the ranks of the orthodox have failed to disrobe the heavy veil of “Revelations.”

While doing this, it is showed at first theologians and priests took the book as a historical account, but then they found no account in history of it. Then, they interpreted it as history of the future (prophecy), yet it is not a prophecy of the future, but purely allegorical and mystical. It is a vision, a drama of initiation.

This challenges the strategic accusations Christian powers have made against “heresiological agendas.” Pryse proposes the idea that the primitive Christian influences were based upon an ancient system of Gnosis, with its esoteric codes and keys (interpretations), and was known to several fathers who were Initiates.

The Apocalypse Pryse writes, became a weapon of the ecclesiastical powers, but his analysis changes that greatly. James M. Pryse explains, that it was meant to undo orthodoxy, giving an allegorical and mystical account of Iaonnes, the Seer’s initiation into the perceptive mysteries. The writer of the text claims to have bore witness to the Logos of the God, and of the Anointed Iesous.

Πολλοὶ γάρ εἰσιν κλητοὶ, ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί. “Many indeed are called, few are chosen.”

The New Testament Hellenic Restoration is James Morgan Pryse’s radically different interpretation of the Christian religion. He attempted to do more than restore the original concepts of Greek esotericism. He stated, that the “New Testament” is not a “sacred” scripture, but has semblances with the writings of Philo Judaeus (Philōn Judaios), and commonalities with the Greek allegorical dramas and prose poems. Pryse asserts, that the New Testament syncretized the Hellenic teletai and mystery-language with the Jewish. It was written by men who forged a new religion like many syncretisms of the time, that were not built on historical figures, but ‘literary types.’

Pryse on the New Testament, basically says, that Christianity is a syncretism of —

  1. the Sōd (Mysteries) of the Jews, and
  2. the Teletai (mystery observances) of “the Greeks” and others.

JEWISH AND GREEK MYSTERIES IN EARLY CHRISTIAN ROOTS

A study of the sects and theologies from the River Jordan and old Phoenician-worships with the Hellenic Systems gives us some perspective about the origins of Christianity and its doctrines. As we find, according to James M. Pryse’s study, the Christian cult contain elements that reveal a syncretism, or union between Judaism and the Hellenic Mysteries.

How did we get from the Jordan Nazorene mystics, who were Jews, to the New Testament theology? What were those glad tidings spoken by those at the banks of the river Jordan who intermingled? Are the Christians and their concepts and worship the same then as those of the present-day? Did the Christians step out from Judaism, which itself is said to have spread out from the old Dionysian-worship of the Syrian Adonis?

It was on the lands of Galilee, of Lebanon, of Israel and Phoenicia, Adonis was said to descend down the streams of the Jordan River, bringing the vernal and autumnal rain. Whether in Syria, or Moab, and Mesopotamia, Moloch, or Baal (El) the primal (invisible) SUN was also Adon, Adonis, or Adonai of the highplaces and temples. Among those Nazarenes of the desert, the Mysteries of Adonis (ADON) lived, and rivers bore the name of Adonis, on the authority of Lucian of Samosata. The Nazarenes belonged to Adonis, whom was of many names, and they were said to intermingle along the banks of the river Jordan with the Nabatheans, Essenians, and Sabeans.

The Nabi who was called Rabbi, a wanderer and a wise man, is also known in their sacred literature in the Greek as a Chrestos, because being a pure man. He is Nazoraios, because of his separation from other men, like the sect of John the Baptist. In all ways, this Jesus-character who encourages his followers to even leave their families to follow him, is unlike his contemporaries, and brings to mind many questions.

This itinerant character of the New Testament, Jesus prays inward to his God (from within), like the Buddhists and Yogis. The conventionalists look into the skybut he wanders into the wilderness, and senses his identical nature with the Father-Spirit. 

What of Epiphinius of Salamis, whom remarked that those whom we call Christians, were also known equally as Nazoraeans, and called Essenians (those whom intermingled along the banks of the Jordan) . . . Who are those who went out from them saying they are the true representatives of their Sod, or MYSTERIES? Of who of the hundreds of sects today are we to decipher holds the good teaching? What was the good tidings? I say, none of the contemporaries have it.

The reason why these Nazorenes, who were mystics of old Palestine were set apart from the Rabbis and Tanaim, and joined with the Gnostic Jews, all joined on the banks of the river for Baptism. . .Samuel F. Dunlap explained, that Judaism was the very first off-shoot from the Mystery-Religions of Adonis-Baal, or Bacchus-worship (Adonis). It still retains the impressions of the old Phoenician and Babylonian worship, but the Pharisees laid much stress on the technicalities, forms and ceremonies of worship. 

Damascius, the last of the Neoplatonists knew of Babylonian worship, and their Deity of whom they respected with silence. It is the same “One Principle of the Universe” (Abstract SPACE) in Theosophy as in Acts, that is the “Hidden God,” the Mystery of the Jews, known to the Kabbalists and Magi. Christianity is not the only religion in history to assert a doctrine about a god, whom is called the Only-begotten Son (the ANOINTED). This god is the first-principle, PNEUMA, the Light, Life and Primal Fire, the ancient Ionians taught of.

The metaphysical and religious principles concerning the Christos all precede the Christian’s position and theology, and the Jews already possessed the doctrine about Sod, the Son of Man. It is right in the Jewish commentaries, and their masked doctrines about the seven asdt, the Fires of God. One recognizes the same Silence (unfathomable), or the name the high sages do not pronounce. The same Pater (Father) in Zeus or Jupiter, and Minerva (Selene-Helena) or Athena is in the Christian religion.

Bacchus (Adonis), also called Silenus (the Silence) too was said to be the only worthy one of the “Virgin” (Venus). Venus also represents in her theogony Matter, from which came forth a Son called Dionysodotus. Dionysodotus is “Apollo,” the SUN, also known as the “Son of Man,” whose words to the Delphian oracles read — “Man, Know Thyself.” “Thyself,” being the point rooted in the Pneuma (the Spirit concealed in and through Matter), or first-born. The same concepts existed in Buddhism and in India, through the Upanishads and Advaita.

The Hellenic restoration of these concepts hides a high philosophy and a science. It puts the Christian thinker of such style in league with the ancients, rather than against them. It reveals a psychology of inducing the regeneration of the god within, and unveils the true meaning of the salvific doctrine.

Updated 6/18/2021

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