Preaching of the Antichrist by Luca Signorelli ca 1500 (detail, click to enlarge)
An earlier post discussed ancient critics of Christianity who vigorously expressed their doubts about the factual reliability of the Gospels, the character of the Apostles, and the discernment of their Christian audience. We couldn’t find an example, however, of an argument based on the possibility that Jesus never existed.
Some modern apologists would explain that this is because there never was any example. “The argument that Jesus never existed, …was not one that the enemies of Christianity in the ancient world ever used,” James Carleton Paget, a Cambridge academic flatly assured his readers (link).
It turns out, however, that an ancient patristic author wrote that there was a Christian group who taught that the proto-orthodox Jesus was an enchantment devised by a First Century magician. According to this magican’s followers, he was the real historical figure whose words and deeds inspired Christianity, not Jesus. Jesus was a thing of smoke and mirrors, or maybe not even that.
Frederick Bligh Bond
A team led by Roberta Gilchrist, a professor of archeology at Reading University and a trustee of the Glastonbury Abbey, have completed a multi-year project to collect, reinterpret and publish records of 36 seasons of excavations from 1904 through 1979 (online and with a 500-page book). Glastonbury’s press release quotes Professor Gilchrist,
This project has rewritten the history of Glastonbury Abbey. Although several major excavations were undertaken during the 20th century, dig directors were led heavily [by] Glastonbury’s legends and the occult. Using 21st century technology we took a step back from the myth and legend to expose the true history of the Abbey.
Colorful legends of Apostles and Arthur have likely wrong-footed many scholars. As Professor Gilchrist put it, “Research revealed that some of the best known archaeological ‘facts’ about Glastonbury are themselves myths perpetuated by the Abbey’s excavators.” But one dig director stands out as having been led by the “occult.”
Frederick Bligh Bond (1864-1945) was an architect with extensive technical knowledge about old church buildings. He served at Glastonbury from 1908, when the Church of England bought the property, until 1921. His productive digs satisfied his superiors. Then in 1918, Bond published The Gate of Remembrance (here) and its sequel in 1919, Hill of Vision. Bond explained candidly how he had so efficiently and effectively rescued long-lost buildings from oblivion.
His career fell apart.
Illustration by Moina Bergson Mathers
Early Carl Jung bookplate
Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a pioneer in psychology, trained in medicine, who firmly grounded his scientific work in empirical and clinical observation. Yet Jung’s ideas about synchronicity, the collective nature of much of the unconscious, his technique of “active imagination,” his investigations of spiritualist seances, the I Ching, astrology, alchemy … in a few words, his lifelong fascination with the occult and integration of occult-friendly concepts into his scientific work, mark him as an unusual scientist. In contrast, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), the Irish writer and Nobel laureate in literature, immersed himself in the occult, unconstrained by scientific aspiration or self-identification.
This posting introduces a brief 7500-word essay, entitled “Magic,” that Yeats wrote in 1901, while Jung was still working at his first job as a psychiatrist. The full essay, reformatted and annotated, may be downloaded from the blog’s Unlinks page. Yeats anticipates several of the then as yet unknown Jung’s later ideas and methods.
“Magic” offers a study in the synchronicity (“the coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same meaning,” as Jung would define his term) that surrounded the substantially independent emergence of parallel insights in two great thinkers of the last century. Continue reading