The Oracular Gnosis of Christianity: Christian Syncretism, Revelations, and the Mysteries of John | James M. Pryse’s Writings
CHRISTIANITY RESTORED TO 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 Biblical 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.
James M. Pryse interprets the Gospels along the lines of ancient philosophy and psychology. Pryse’s task was in undermining the whole structure upon which dogmatic theology was built, and restoring the corrupt text approximately to its primitive form. He demonstrates that the Crucifixion, e.g., 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.
James M. Pryse says 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 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 and meaning of Christian Gnosis.
THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS, NOT PROPHESIED HISTORY
James Morgan Pryse described in his highly interesting work, Apocalypse Unsealed: Being an Esoteric Interpretation of Initiation (1910). Pryse argued upon the authority of Greek Esotericism, that the “Book of the Revelation” of Iaonnes [John] is not a book detailing the past, nor the future; but was a book designed to dismantle, when unveiled, the dogmas of the conventionalists. The thesis is that the Apocalypse vision of Iaonnes 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 thesis of James M. Pryse on the Gospels and Books 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.
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 peculiarities. While differing from the authorised version, they are based broadly on the Greek. 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, James M. Pryse showed, at first theologians and priests took the book as a historical account, then finding no account in history of it. Then, they interpreted it as history of the future (prophecy), but it is purely allegorical and mystical.
It is not only interesting to the theosophist, but it in general challenges the strategic accusations the Christian makes about “heresiological agendas.” It proposes the idea that the primitive Christian influences were based on the secret science, or Gnōsis (γνώσις), and in the original program of the Church; especially known to several fathers who were Initiates.
The Apocalypse Pryse says, became a weapon of the ecclesiastical powers, but his analysis changes that greatly. James M. Pryse says, it was meant to undo orthodoxy, giving an allegorical and mystical account of Iâonnês, 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, thus bore witness to the esoteric doctrine, that is the root of Christianity, and of the religions of antiquity, i.e., divine Gnōsis.
As a Theosophist, James M. Pryse however contended the ancient mysteries possess real knowledge, and are not merely ideas for the intellectual perusal of academia. Not being particularly a mythicist but skeptical, he still compares to Dr. Richard Carrier. Dr. Richard Carrier similarly 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, and this work is quite similar to Dr. Richard Carrier’s research (Mystery-Faith).
The New Testament Hellenic Restoration is James Morgan Pryse’s radically different interpretation of the Christian religion, 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 Christianity: a syncretism of —
- the Sōd (MYSTERIES) of the Jews, and
- the Teletai (mystery observances) of “the Greeks” and others.
THE DELPHIAN KEY-NOTE OF GREEK ESOTERICISM AND PLATO’S FOUR DEGREES OF KNOWLEDGE
The Hellenic philosophy, as with Platonism is infused with a knowledge about both psychic and mental discipline. These ideas and practices are at the basis of ancient and modern esoteric schools, and notions about the development of the real man.
Combined with the ethics, dietary observations, and practical mysticism, it forms or reconstructs the classical formula of the early Christians. In its primitive form in the Gnosis, it is far more explanatory and magical than the Christian. Those who were termed “Chrestian,” practice the Christian way towards Christos — the Logos, or divine Nous. It is through the inner chambers (the adytum), the initiate gains the power to conquer the self. These dramas possess instructions, as well as the keys to the symbols underlying the Christian fable. It is possible, not under the Aristotelian philosophy though, that a student is capable of learning the faculty of apprehending truth, without the aid of inductive reasoning. Plato simply termed this power — “Intuition.”
“The point where the arcane system sharply diverges from all the conventional schools of thought is in the means of acquiring knowledge. To make this clear, Plato’s analysis of the four faculties of the soul, with their four corresponding degrees of knowledge, may be taken, (Rep. vi. 5 1 1.) Tabulated, it is as follows:
THE VISIBLE, SENSUOUS WORLD.
1. perception of images,) opinion, illu-
2. faith, psychic groping) sory knowledge,
THE INTELLIGIBLE, SUPRASENSUOUS WORLD.
3. philosophic reason), wis-
4. direct cognition ) dom, true knowledge.
The first of these degrees covers the whole field of the inductive physical sciences, which are concerned with investigating the phenomena of external nature; the second degree embraces exoteric religion and all phases of blind belief; and these two degrees, pertaining to the phranic or lower mind, comprise all the knowledge available to those whose consciousness does not transcend the illusions of the material world. The third degree relates to speculative philosophy, which seeks to arrive at first principles by the effort of pure reason; the fourth degree is the direct apprehension of truth by the lucid mind independently of any reasoning process; and these two degrees, pertaining to the noetic or higher mind, represent the field of knowledge open to those whose consciousness rises to the world of spiritual reality. Elsewhere Plato speaks of the mantic state, which he describes as a kind of madness produced “by a divine release from the ordinary ways of men.”
The exoteric scientist and religionist rely on the physical senses, the psychic emotions, and the intellectual faculties as these are in the present stage of human evolution; and while the scientist some what enlarges the scope of the senses by employing the telescope, the microscope, and other mechanical devices, the religionist puts his trust in the mutilated records of suppositional revelations received from the remote past. But the esotericist, refusing to be confined within the narrow limits of the senses and the mental faculties, and recognizing that the gnostic powers of the soul are hopelessly hampered and obscured by its imperfect instrument, the physical body, devotes himself to what may be termed intensive self-evolution, the conquest and utilization of all the forces and faculties that lie latent in that fontal essence within himself which is the primary source of all the elements and powers of his being, of all that he is, has been, and will be. By gaining conscious control of the hidden potencies which are the proximate causes of his individual evolution, he seeks to traverse in a comparatively brief period of time the path leading to spiritual illumination and liberation from terrestrial bondage, rushing forward, as it were, toward that goal which the human race as a whole, advancing at an almost imperceptible rate of progress, will reach only after aeons of time. His effort is not so much to know as to become; and herein lies the tremendous import of the Delphic inscription, “Know Thyself,” which is the key-note of esotericism.
For the esotericist understands that true self-knowledge can be attained only through self-development in the highest possible sense of the term, a development which begins with introspection and the awakening of creative and re-generative forces which now slumber in man’s inner protoplasmic nature.” (James Morgan Pryse, Apocalypse Unsealed: Being an Esoteric Interpretation of Initiation, pp. 6-8)
Three types of ways to get knowledge
- [Opinion] the senses, or perception
- [Science] dialectics, the art of inquiry into the knowledge or the truth of things
- [Illumination] intuition, and identification of the mind with the object known
James Morgan Pryse shows, that real development is in physio-psychological development, and the unfolding of inner senses.
JEWISH AND GREEK MYSTERIES, AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY
A study of the sects and theologies from the River Jordan and old Phoenician-worships with the Hellenic Systems is sufficient to give us some perspective about the origins of Christianity and its doctrines. As we find, according to James M. Pryse’s study, the Christian Religion 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 those same people then, or even of the classical periods in Rome, the same Christians today? Did the Christians step out from Judaism, which itself 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, your feared “Moloch,” or Baal (El) the primal (or invisible) SUN is also Adon, Adonis, or Adonai of the highplaces and temples of the Ancients of the Near-East civilizations. 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 Iaonnes (or John the Baptist). In all ways, the Iesous-character is unlike his contemporaries.
This fictional itinerant character of the New Testament, Iesous prays inward to ‘The God’ (from within), like the Buddhists and Yogis. The conventionalists look into the sky for The GOD, but the Wise Man like the outer (physical Sun) discovers that their essence is identical to the Father-SPIRIT. What makes the modern Christian wise? What is the Hidden Wisdom of Sōd, of Theion (the DEITY) they possess, which sets them generally apart from men and rulers of the World, like this money-table flipping Iesous? They call themselves the followers of Iesous Christos.
What of Epiphinius of Salamis, whom remarked that those whom we call Christians, were also known equally, as Nazoraeans, and called Essenians, or 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 Sōd, or MYSTERIES? Of who of the hundreds of sects are we to decipher holds the real Gnosis?
Now, the true reason why these Nazorenes, who were mystics of old Palestine were set apart from the Rabbis and Tanaïm of the time, and joined with the Gnostic Jews whom all joined on the banks of the river for Baptism. We are told, that Judaism was the very first off-shoot from the Mystery-Religions, particularly, the Adonis-Baal, or Bacchus-worship (Adonis). It still retains the impressions of that principally, old Phoenician and Babylonian worship; but the Pharisees, e.g., laid much stress on the technicalities, forms and ceremonies of worship.
Damascius, the last of the Neoplatonists knew of the Babylonian worship, stating, that they passed over in silence, concerning the “One Principle of the Universe” (Abstract SPACE), just as confirmed in Acts, about the “Hidden God,” the Mystery of the Jews, as known to the Kabbalists, and was known to the Zurvanites of Persia. Christianity is not the only religion in history to assert a doctrine about a god, whom is called the Only-begotten Son (the ANOINTED), who is the PNEUMA, the Fire, Light and Life, as the Ionians understood concerning the first-principle.
The metaphysical and religious principles concerning the Christos all precede the Christian dogmas, and the Jews already possessed the doctrine in the form we speak, 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 conception, and the differences are superficial.
Bacchus (Adonis), also called Silenus (the Silence) too was said to be the only worthy one of the “Virgin” (Venus). Venus is also a metaphysical principle in the oracular office (theogony) for 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” — 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 under the Greek Gnosis exonerates Valentinus, and reveals a high philosophy. 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.