A:  Since our last discussion a couple of days ago, I’ve been pretty confused, to be honest, and I was wondering if we could go back over a few of the points you raised.  Would that be okay?

J:  Yes.  We covered quite a bit of ground, introduced some new concepts.  So ask away.

A:  Thanks.  Well, partly I’m still struggling with this idea that Paul’s religion is marketing God like a shampoo brand.  It’s just so materialistic — small “M” materialistic — and I don’t see any connection between this idea and the idea of faith.  I find it hard to believe that millions of Christians would agree to participate in such a crass pursuit.  I mean, where is the sense of faith — the sense of ongoing relationship with God — in a religion that’s selling God like this week’s special at Walmart?

J:  Well, Paul’s version of divine shampoo is more like the $4.99 brand that’s relabelled under the table and sold in a high-end salon for $89.99 as the best product for the best people.

A:  But expensive shampoo is still just shampoo.  It’s not faith.

Cockleburs - Sticky and Nasty, but Very Effective

“Jesus said: The Kingdom is like a man with a treasure of which he is unaware hidden in his field. He died and left the field to his son. His son knew nothing about it and, having received the field, sold it. The owner came and, while plowing, found the treasure. He began to lend money at interest to anybody he wished (Gospel of Thomas 109). Paul, who came after Jesus and Jesus’ confused disciples, saw the opportunity to take the buried treasure of faith offered by Jesus and lend it out to others with a promissory note for future salvation. Obedience was the interest Paul charged.  In this photo, the cockleburs that can stick to your hair and clothing as you walk through field and forest are like Paul’s teachings: covered in nasty hooks but very effective. Photo credit JAT 2014.

J:  No.  It’s not faith.  But as you and I have discussed before, religion and faith are not synonymous with each other.  Religion is an organized social, political, and economic institution, an institution that can be used under certain circumstances to create a desire for obedience among the middle and lower classes of society.  As a tool for creating social cohesion, it can be quite effective — at least, for a while.

A:  Social cohesion is good.  But people still need faith!  People long to feel that deep inner connection with God that makes them feel whole.

J:  Yes.  So within the annals of a religion such as Christianity, you see a constant tension between the people who are seeking God — that is, people who are yearning for faith — and the people who don’t give a hoot about God but are seeking to tap into the hidden power that underlies all universal laws.  The ones who don’t give a hoot about God are the ones who have dictated the path of orthodoxy in the Christian church as it’s known today.

A:  So you mean there were church leaders who didn’t actually believe in God?  Who were atheists or maybe agnostics?

J:  Let’s put it this way.  The vast majority of church leaders whose writings have been preserved were not writing about God.  They were writing about Paul’s Spirit — Divine Law writ large.

A:  I noticed in my theology courses that orthodox theologians over the centuries relied heavily on Paul and much less on Mark, Matthew, and Luke for scriptural authority.

J (nodding):  Paul is the biblical source for Trinitarian theology.  John is usually considered a source, too, but John’s personal theology wasn’t as sophisticated as Paul’s, and didn’t have as much influence.  Mark contains no Trinitarian theology, and not much usable Christology, either, from the point of view of Paul and his successors.  Paul’s writings, though, are a font of “wisdom” on the topic of tapping into the hidden power of the universe.  I say that facetiously.

A:  Of course.  So tell me more about Paul’s Trinitarian theology.  You seem to be making a link between Paul’s Trinitarian teachings and the theme of selling God as a shampoo brand.  But I confess you’ve lost me.  I don’t quite see the connection.  Could you explain that?

J:  In the time when I lived, philosophy and religion and science were hopelessly intertwined.  They were intertwined in a way that’s hard for people today to relate to.  Chemistry and physics and medicine weren’t treated as subjects that were separate from philosophy or religion.  They were treated as subjects that were subordinate to, or dependent upon, the highest aspirations of the human mind: pure philosophy or pure religious law.  But devotion to philosophy or devotion to pure religious law (as in the case of the Essenes in my day) were both attempts to understand the immutable laws that lie behind everything that happens here on Planet Earth.  So when you tried to study chemistry, you weren’t really studying chemistry.  You were looking for the hidden religious laws that governed the chemistry.  You were looking for the religious laws that applied not only to the metals you were extracting from base ores but to the people in your religious community.  You were looking for the universal principles of authority, power, dominion, status, and chosenness.  You were looking for proof — validation — that your religious teachings were correct and other groups’ teachings were wrong.  So science was usually a means to an end — a religious end.  Needless to say, this got in the way of objective scientific research.

A:  That mindset still exists in certain quarters today.

J:  Yes.  But during the first century CE, the religious leaders who had the most credibility, the widest acceptance, were the ones who tried hardest to crystallize the mysteries of Divine Law, philosophy, and science into a simplified “package.”  Paul was very good at this.  He squeezed Law, philosophy, and science together into one shampoo bottle.  Then he shook them up hard so you couldn’t see the separate strands and try to pull them apart.  He labelled the product as “God.”  But what Paul described as God has nothing to do with God the Mother and God the Father as they actually are.

A:  Still not getting it.

J:  Paul wasn’t interested in knowing who I was as a person.  Paul wasn’t interested in knowing who God the Mother and God the Father were as people.  He was only interested in his agenda of proving his own authority.

A:  His authority as a messenger of God?

J:  No.  His authority as an avenging angel, sent to Planet Earth to spread the true message about Spirit — pure, formless, timeless, insuperable Law.

A:  He wasn’t trying to teach people about God?

J:  Like all severe narcissists, Paul was incapable of conceiving of God as a person — or as two people, which is what I taught.  Narcissists can’t see anybody except themselves.  They can’t see their own children as separate, worthy human beings, so they certainly can’t see God as separate, worthy beings.  For narcissists, the world fractures into many different forms of myth — monistic myths, dualistic myths, and hierarchical myths.  This is the only way they can make sense of their own internal suffering, their own internal experience of emptiness.

A:  But Spirit is different because Spirit isn’t a person — it’s a formless cloud of endless power.  I get it.  It’s a projection!  The narcissist is projecting his own internal self-image onto the universe around him.  Spirit is pure power, pure ascendancy, pure authority — with no need at all for messy emotions like forgiveness or devotion or courage or trust!  I get it!

Okay.  So how does this relate to Trinitarian theology?

J:  Paul’s invocation of Spirit, God, and Jesus Christ is alchemy.

A:  Alchemy?  Now my head is really starting to hurt.

J:  When you try to force the actual laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and math to conform to pure religious law, pure religious authority, you’re practising alchemy.  I’m defining alchemy as an attempt to control all the powers of “chaos” for the purpose of creating order and harmony.

A:  By “powers of chaos” you mean things like  . . . entropy?

J:  No.  I mean God the Mother and God the Father as they actually are.   In Paul’s view, and in the view of many of his successors, God has not been behaving properly, and has done very illogical and unfair things such as allowing earthquakes to hit major religious centres and requiring saintly figures to die like everybody else.  This implication is so clear in Paul’s teachings that a century or so later in Rome one of his most enthusiastic followers, Marcion, would create a firestorm of controversy by suggesting there was a hierarchy of gods in Creation, with a jealous, vindictive god who rules over this world, and above him, a supreme god who is just and loving but who remains “unknown” to people on Earth except through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  For Marcion, Paul was the messenger of this great and radical truth about the unknown god.

A:  So Paul was trying to force both God and you to “obey” Spirit, which is the supreme and formless cloud of knowing and love and justice?

J:  Exactly.

A:  By squishing you all together into “One”?

J:  He would have thought of it as “reintegrating” broken pieces of divine truth that had fallen out of their proper places.  Pieces such as the Logos (me).  And Charis (grace), who was Paul’s God.

A:  Frig.  This is so complicated.  And so Gnostic.  I like your teaching about God as two loving parents much better.  Paul’s version is so  . . . so fluid.  So malleable.  So nebulous and undefined.  So conveniently changeable.  So easily manipulated, depending on the circumstances.

J:  In a previous post you described the Trinity as a shell game.  That definition still applies.

  
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