Monthly Archives: September 2013

Burnley & the Bible

Me, Nick & Lei-Bau
Me, Nick & Lei-Bau

Im just nearing the end of my last full day in Britain for a while. I’m in my hometown of Burnley, babysitting for my niece & nephew, with my bag all packed for India. The day began up on the moors, stocking up on psilocybyn for when I return, the glorious Pennines rolling on every side under a sweet sunshine. There followed a walk along the canal with my best mate Nick, his son Lei-Bau & their dog, Shin-Chan, after which I went to meet mi dad for a pint. The football results then came in, the roars of nearby Turf Moor telling us that Burnley had won 3-0, cementing their 2nd place in the Championship in the process.

It was an apt place to be, for it was as a boy in Burnley that I first noticed the trappings of the Christian faith, singing sacred hymns in school assembleys,’ while every December I would gaze on the nativity scene set up in a wooden hut in the town centre. Excepting my Grandmother who said a prayer to ‘Jimmy God’ every bedtime, my family, were not exactly your staunchest believers, & apart from family weddings & funerals, I never really stepped inside a church. As I grew older, I felt free to make my own mind up about God & Jesus & soon decided that the ‘absolute truth’ I was being told about divinity was extremely hard to believe. Around me, of course, my young British peers were largely feeling the same, drinking copious amounts of alcohol in churches that had been converted into bars. Our lack of faith was rooted in the scientific discoveries of recent centuries, where erudite souls such as James Hutton (Geology) & Charles Darwin (Evolution) had challenged quite successfully the Biblical account of Creation.

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If the Story of Adam & Eve was a poetic creation of antiquity, then the Bible just cannot be seen as the infallible word of god, raising the possibility that the divinity of Jesus had also been made-up. To get to the bottom of things, I felt I had to examine just how, & why, a mere mortal had been elevated to such a grandiose godhead. It was with this in mind that I visited Saint Peter’s Church, the oldest in Burnley, which stands on the site of the town’s original settlement. As I entered the church, I picked up a stray Bible & sat myself down in one of the pews, laptop primed, the Jesus mystery all dark clouds & obscurity before me.

the-empty-tomb

The prime sources for the Biblical Jesus are found in the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament, all of which agree that despite his dead body being taken to a tomb on a Friday, by the Monday he had risen from the dead. Throughout the Gospels & other books of the New Testament, the risen Jesus was witnessed by many of his followers, sharing food with them & even showing them his wounds to prove his identity;

When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had said this, he showed unto them his hands and his side. John 20-20

Up on the Moors...
Up on the Moors…

Away from the gospels, the Roman author Tacitus confirms that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as in; Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.’ Tacitus wrote this c.100AD, & whether he based his account on the Gospels or not, it shows that knowledge of Christ’s crucifixion was current at that time. This, & his subsequent resurrection, would become one of the two main pillars of Christianity.

Dosso_Dossi_022

The other is firmly planted into the crucial moment when Jesus rises to Heaven – an event known as the Ascension. Surprisingly, this seminal moment is only briefly recorded in just two of the Gospels, as in;

He was received up into Heaven, & sat down at the right hand of the Lord,(Mark 16-19)

He was parted from them & carried up to Heaven (Luke 24-51)

…and that’s it! Just twenty-six words to describe one of the most important happenings in world history. Yet, it is on these meagre scraps of information that the religion of Christianity, as we know it, is built. The other two gospels make no mention of the Ascension whatsoever, ending their accounts of Jesus’ ministry in Palestine in a rather more mundane fashion. One would imagine that if the physical body of Jesus was raised to Heaven, both Matthew & John would have mentioned it. It should also observed that the earliest complete texts of the Gospel of Mark – the Sinaiticus & Vaticanus Codexes (3rd-4th century) – do not contain the last eleven verses in which the Ascension is contained & ends with the discovery of an empty tomb.

Cant' wait to get back...
Cant’ wait to get back…

In light of all this, I grew confident that the Ascension had never occurred at all, & that following his revival after the crucifixion, Jesus must have gone somewhere. This, of course, keeps Iarchus in the game, & I became fully resolved to find him. To do this, I would have to follow in the two millenia-old footsteps of Appollonius… thus, with a copy of Philostratus tucked away in my inside pocket, in the morning I shall set off out for India.

Burnley
28/09/2013

Extra bit - On the walk from town to my sisters, I passed through the Stoneyholme part of Burnley, which is something of a ‘Little Pakistan.’ En route I came across an impromptu cricket game, which reminded me of how cricket is played on almost every street-corner of the subcontinent – bring it on!

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Leith & Litology

Bye-Bye Winter
Bye-Bye Winter

My name is Damo, a first-class graduate of the School of Literary Archeology, Naples. My field is devoted to the discovery of the truth beneath the greatest mysteries of history. Of these, it has been my pleasure to discover & discuss the reality behind the man the world knows as Jesus Christ. My interest in the subject was piqued in February 2011, as I found myself ‘digging’ through the worm-riddled books of the Ragunhandan library, in Puri, Orissa. As I sat beneath the creaking fans, with the rush of on Orissan temple-city outside, I felt the great memory of the Imperial adventure surging through my spirit. The colonial era saw the translation & study of many ancient texts, providing rich & multitudinous seams for future litologists to dig through. It was in Puri, for example, that I first ruffled through an English-language version of the Bhagavad Gita, & it was there that I also heard for the first time of how Jesus Christ had spent time in India. I was told this by a scruffy-looking fifty-year old American called Ross, as we stood in the blaze of day on the library’s rooftop. This was the closest any westerner ever got to the guts of the epic Jaggernatha Temple, forbidden as we were to enter its sacred confines. However, the library roof gives a pleasant, though restricted view of at least a portion of the inner Temple.

“Jesus is said to have studied there, y’know,” said Ross.
“He did…” I replied with nonchalant indifference. It seemed rather a far-fetched notion.
“Yeah man, there’s this book I’ve read by a Russian guy called Notovich – its called the Gospel according to Christ, or something…

Jagannath-temple

A few days later I found these words ringing round my head as I was ‘digging’ through a provincial library in Bubanaswar, the capital of Orissa. I soon unearthed a copy of Notovich, which was sitting on the bookshelf next to another book called Jesus in India. Taking my seat in a sea of white shirts, I plunged into both texts.

Notovich tells us that while travelling in Ladakh in the late nineteenth century, he came across a text in the Buddhist monastery at hemis, which purported to be the Gospel of Christ. His translation tells us that in the missing years – that is between his being at the Temple as a 12-year old, & mysteriously reappearing at the age of 30 – Jesus travelled & studied all across northern India. The problem with Notovich is that the original scrolls from which he took his translation are now ‘gone’ either hidden by the Monks of Hemis, or they just never even existed at all. However, it was the second book, a translation of the original Urdu, ‘Jesus in India (1899),’ which provided several pieces of supporting evidence that Jesus did indeed spend time in India. In particular, it’s author – Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – tells us of the Rozabal Shrine on Srinagar, Kashmir, in which Jesus is said to have been buried. The proximity of Srinagar to Hemis & Notavich’s the Gospel of Jesus is close enough to strengthen & support each others viability. Just as enough circumstantial evidence can prove innocence & guilt, so too can a collection of coincidences suggest that events in much deeper history could or could not have occurred.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

Taken together, the alliance of Notovich & Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad provided enough ‘forensic’ evidence to traced Jesus to India. This, I felt, was enough to go on & least initiate a dig through the sources available. This was undertaken among the salubrious & academic surrounds of the National Library of Scotland, whose collection is on a par with that of the British library in Scotland. Any book published in Britain, & many from beyond the island’s shores, can be delivered to one’s desk within half-an-hour of its ordering. When coupled to the fantastic powers of internet search engines, a 21st century litologist can easily obtain fertile fields in which to find those golden nuggets of true history. It was with great delight & enthusiasm, then, that I struck with early success, for I came across a man who both felt, & sounded, like an Indian Jesus. His name was Iarchus, whose philological journey to Jesus takes only four minor steps, as in;

Iar-ch-us
Iar-sh-us
Jar-sh-us
Je-sh-us
Je-s-us

Before we proceed, I urge you to read aloud the above names one-by-one. This will help obtain an understanding of the phonetic changes brought about by what is known as the Chisper Effect, named after the children’s parlour game, Chinese Whispers. The Effect can be divided into two main spheres; a ‘philochisp’ occurs when a word is altered by translation between languages & dialects, whetehr orally or through scribal errors. Meanwhile a ‘factochisp’ occurs when a truth is altered by corruption through tranmission. In the case of Iarchus, the philochisps are subtle & quite common. The ‘a-to-e’ chisper & the softening of the ‘ch’ to ‘sh’ are both easy to hear, while the I becoming J is common in antique orthography. Indeed, the earliest Greek names of Jesus began with an I, as in Ἰησοῦς (Greek) & Latin (Iesvs), & it was only about the turn of the first millennium that the J sound began to take precedent.

The name Iarchus appears in a 3rd century ‘Vita’ known as the ‘Life of Appollonius of Tyana.‘ Written by the celebrated Roman author, Philostratus, we are given a detailed description of the Indian travels of Appollonius, c.40 AD. His purpose was to study the philosophies of Iarchus, a very erudite sage. On finding the sacred hill on which Iarchus dwelt, Appollonius passed four months in study & talks with his new guru, after which he composed the following letter;

Apollonius to Iarchas and the other sages greeting. I came to you on foot, and yet you presented me with the sea; but by sharing with me the wisdom which is yours, you have made it mine even to travel through the heavens. All this I shall mention to the Hellenes; and I shall communicate my words to you as if you were present, unless I have in vain drunk the draught of Tantalus.

The ‘vita’ tells us that on returning to the West, Appollonius stated, “I ever remember my masters and journey through the world teaching what I have learned from them.” The influence of Iarchus is supported elsewhere by the vita, which tells us that he, ‘Gained a great deal by contact with this Indian, and he says that whenever he sat down to discuss a theme, as he very often did, he resembled Iarchas.’ During this period, Appollonius became famous for his use of Jesus-like activities such as casting out demons & raising the dead. Indeed, he was soon deified & worshipped across the Roman world, which led to the Christian church denouncing this heretical worship of another Jesus-like figure. The world was simply not big enough for two Messiahs.

Appollonius
Appollonius

Comparisons between the two men were highlighted very early on, by a now lost text called ‘The Lover of Truth’ by Heirocles (c.300 CE), the contents of which were later derised by Eusebius, who tells us; ‘Hierocles, of all the writers who have ever attacked us, stands alone in selecting Apollonius, as he has recently done, for the purposes of comparison and contrast with our Saviour…I need not say with what admiring approval he attributes his thaumaturgic feats not to the tricks of wizardry, but to a divine and mysterious wisdom; and he believes they were truly what he supposes them to have been, though he advances no proof of this contention. Listen then to his very words: “In their anxiety to exalt Jesus, they run up and down prating of how he made the blind to see and worked certain other miracles of the kind.

Eusebius then quotes a passage from Heirocles…“In the time of our own ancestors, during the reign of Nero, there flourished Apollonius of Tyana, who from mere boyhood when he became the priest in Aegae of Cilicia of Asclepius, the lover of mankind, worked any number of miracles, of which I will omit the greater number, and only mention a few… What then is my reason for mentioning these facts? It was in order that you may be able to contrast our own accurate and well-established judgment on each point, with the easy credulity of the Christians. For whereas we reckon him who wrought such feats not a god, but only a man pleasing to the gods, they on the strength of a few miracles proclaim their Jesus a god!”

It is clear that Appolonius had the ability to perform ‘miracles,’ & drew his powers from a ‘divine and mysterious wisdom.’ That comparisons were made between the powers of Jesus & Appollonius renders it possible, of course, that the two men drank from the same fonts of wisdom. Because of such similarities in their Modus Operandi, many scholars have even pronounced them to be one & the same person, that Appollonius was Jesus! However, it seems now that Appollonius was in a fact a student of Iarchus, & that Iarchus has once been in Palestine where he was remembered by the Greek version of his name, Jesus.

This was an early & excellent lead in the case, & I was quite surprised to learn that nobody had noticed the connection before. However, one of the chief tools of the Litologist is a full & proper command of the possibilities of the Chisper Effect. To an untrained mind, Iarchus is not Jesus, especially when placed in a situation well outside his Palestinian context. This would be the ‘barrier of logic’ which prevents any further inquisition into the matter. That Iarchus has remained hidden from academic inquiry is perhaps due to the fury vented against by Christian apologists against Appollonius, where in the rush to denounce him as an imposter & satanic sorcerer, everyone seems to have forgotten about his teacher. A further dynamic would be the timing of the release of Appollonius into the English academic spheres. Dr RW Bernard tells us;

After the appearance of Blount’s first English translation of Philostratus’s biography of Apollonius at the commencement of the nineteenth century, his name was on every cultured Englishman’s tongue; today, over a century later, he is almost completely unknown, even in academic circles, mention of him having been omitted from historical works and from the educational curricula — today scarcely a person can be found, even among the most educated, who even heard the name of Apollonnius of Tyana, much less knew anything about him, according to Campbell, “There was a day when the name of Philostratus and Apollonius of Tyana was on every educated Englishman’s tongue…

The fame of Appollonius would wane throughout the nineteenth century, & by Bernard’s time be frittered away into near-nothingness. And yet, just as Appollonius was dissapearing from academic view, the notion that Jesus had been in India was rising from the sub-soil of hidden history via Notovich & Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. If, at that time, Appollonius was being forgotten, then surely his obscure Indian teacher would be condemned to an even deeper seat in the dusts of lost memories & lore. That is, of course, until I took up the case & found him teaching, once more, upon his sacred Indian hill.

I became duty-bound to both find that hill, & determine whether Iarchus was indeed Jesus, as my initial instincts dictated. Instinct is a powerful part of the Litologist’s armoury, & often acts like a lamp with which they delve through places even the bravest historians fear to tread. In this case, it would have to be India, & all the wonder & chaos of that happening, maddening land!

There soon followed the customary progress of a major Litological expedition, from the acquisition of correct travel documentation, to serious digging through the rustling pages of antique texts. After money was obtained from interested parties, & a quality camera procured to record the trip, all that remained was to pursue my findings on the ground, for it is one thing to study a mystery using Google, but a far different one to venture into the exotic land in question & connect with its vital, everliving spark.

Leith
24/09/2013