As the stern state religion of Imperial Rome crumbled under the weight of Oriental mysticisms imported from its conquests in Syria and Egypt, the Empire was rife with the so-called Mystery Religions. The Mystery Religions were systems of gnosis, professing to satisfy the insatiable need of the common Roman to experience “union with God” personally through experience (not infrequently orgiastic or brutal) and contemplation. They imparted “secret” knowledge, which guarded the initiated from the cruel hand of Fate and promised the bountiful reward of a painless and blissful afterlife. They all had as their cornerstone a sacramental drama aimed at producing psychic and mystical effects in the neophyte—striking the twin chords of hope and terror in the heart of men and women.

Sound familiar? Jesus and his turn-of-the-millenium followers incorporated all of this into the proselytizing spin-off of Judaism known today as “Christianity.” The battle for religious dominance raged for centuries against the multiple Mysteries and divided sects of Gnostics who incorporated too much of the “personal touch” for orthodox Christians (budding Inquisitors) to tolerate. With the conversion of Emperor Constantine (who declared Christianity the official state religion of Rome), the compilation of the New Testament (excising several books with especially heretical approaches to “illumination”), and the burning of the library at Alexandria (a storehouse of critical religious writings), the battle was almost won. Two thousand years later, it is especially worthwhile to take a closer look at the actual context and message of the “Good News.” — SS


Bloodline of the Holy Grail: The Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed

Laurence Gardner

According to the surprising and compelling research in this work, Moses was none other than the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton; Jesus is a direct descendant of King David (and as such, fated to become the national leader in the Jewish anti-Roman revolt); Jesus had other brothers and sisters; Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had two sons; Mary Magdalene and their sons fled to Europe after the failed Jewish Wars; Jesus himself fled toward Asia Minor (and is presumed to have traveled on to Kashmir where he supposedly died). This knowledge was kept alive by initiates who originated such religious movements and kingly dynasties the Merovingians, the Celtic Church and the Arthurian romances. The book goes beyond genealogy to show that the Holy Grail, more than a physical object, is an ideal of service and guidance to others instituted by the leader of national liberation and social harmony in ancient Palestine, Jesus. MET

Publisher: Element
Hardback: 489 pages

Christianity Before Christ

John G. Jackson

A highly readable work by a leading African-American atheist academic. Following the folkoric approach of Sir James Frazer (author of The Golden Bough), Jackson has found 30 religions of antiquity that worship Savior-Gods with the following similar traits:
1) They were born on or near Christmas.
2) Their mothers were virgins.
3) They were born in a cave or stable.
4) They worked for the salvation of humanity.
5) They were called saviors, mediators, healers, etc.
6) They were overcome by evil powers.
7) They each made a descent into Hell.
8) After being slain they arose from death and ascended to Heaven at Easter.
9) They founded religious institutions.
10) They were commemorated by Eucharistic rites.
11) Many of these Savior-Gods were believed to make a second coming to the world.
Jackson cites numerous details to prove that the Christ myth was a deliberate amalgam of all the existing Savior-God cults of its time, including that Adonis had a sacred grove dedicated to Him at Bethlehem; and that followers of Mithra ate wafers marked with a cross, celebrated their sacred solar day on Sundays, and were led by a figure known as the Papa who was seated in Rome. SS

Publisher: American Atheist
Paperback: 238 pages

The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh

Upon their 1947 discovery in Palestine, the scrolls caused an uproar in the academic community because they presented a very different picture of Christ and Christians in the first centuries of Christianity from what was then generally believed. Some scholars advocated free interpretation of the scrolls, others did not, and the official interpretation of the scrolls was plagued with inconsistencies. Facsimiles of the scrolls were not released generally until the Huntington Library in Pasadena, Calif. decided to break conformity and released copies. MET

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Paperback: 288 pages

The Gnostic Jung: Including”Seven Sermons to the Dead”

Edited by Robert A. Segal

“Dr. Jung is a seer and a mystic after the fashion of the magicians of the Renaissance. Some think he is a spiritual pagan, while others accuse him of being biased in the direction of Christianity. This little book would set both of these opinions in the wrong, for it shows that he is a kind of Gnostic.”

Publisher: Princeton University
Paperback: 336 pages

The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity

Hans Jonas

Jonas studied Gnosticism and concluded that it was a revolt against the rule of a Creator and in favor of mankind. Besides historical background about the development, ideological struggles and the suppression of this ancient religious system, the author shows how the ascendance of Gnosticism might have affected today’s society in terms of art, theology and everyday life. MET

Publisher: Beacon
Paperback: 358 pages

The Great Heresy: The History and Beliefs of the Cathars

Arthur Guirdham

Enter into the strange world of the Inquisition, when wife-swapping groups became known as religious movements; indeed, when everything seemed to center around religion. The Great Heresy focuses upon the Cathars, a Gnostic revival sect centered in France. In point of fact, it is difficult today to imagine a sect like the Cathars being singled out for extermination. Many of their beliefs resemble those of the Jehovah’s Witnesses of today mixed with a primitive Hinduism: denial of the Eucharist; vegetarianism; and the rejection of Hell as an abode of eternal punishment and damnation. It is the Cathars’ sex practices which have aroused, so to speak, the interests of inquisitive men and women. The author devotes the first 14 chapters of his book to the history and beliefs of the Cathars, while the remaining chapters follow the authors’ philosophical bent. In this reviewer’s opinion, the subject matter is rather dry and unexciting… not at all what one would expect from a sect alleged to have indulged in so many sexual perversions. Indeed, the author, far from repeating these salubrious tales, understates them, and subjects the reader to a big letdown. JB

Publisher: C.W. Daniel
Paperback: 186 pages

In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis

Philip K. Dick

This collection provides an unprecedented peek into the stream of consciousness of a great writer grappling with an examination of his own psyche and the enigma of his mystic/schizophrenic experience. It is part of the lore of Philip K. Dick that on the day of “2-3-74” in the Orange County suburb of Santa Ana, Calif., the science-fiction writer was contacted by a beam of pink light which he came to know as VALIS—Vast Active Living Intelligence System—which fundamentally altered his consciousness and inspired his last three novels now known as the VALIS trilogy. Dick then saw himself as a “homoplasmate” (a human host for living information), and began to be flooded with revelations, which he set down on 8,000 hand-written pages and termed the “Exegesis” (defined as an explanation or critical interpretation of a text).
Among a myriad of interconnected topics, in the Exegesis Dick explores Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, the I Ching, Heidegger and Wittgenstein; sketches out plots for upcoming novels and looks back over his published works; deals with his feelings of being contacted from “the other side”; cites authorities from Plotinus to Hoyt Axton; and even deals with the possibility of his own mental illness in the form of a dialog with himself:
“Q: Why would I believe that my senses were enhanced, i.e., I could see for the first time?
A: Psychotomimetic drugs indicate this happens in psychosis.
Q: And Kosmos? Everything fitting together?
A: ‘Spread of meaning,’ typical of psychosis.
Q: Foreign words and terms I don’t know?
A: Long-term memory banks open. Disgorging their contents into consciousness.”
Like a psychedelic Céline, Dick plunges deep into the vortex of reality and consciousness in late 20th-century America, which he described in a remarkably lucid manner: “I, who was not a legitimate member of the ruling class (which is defined as, ‘those who get to define—control, generate—reality’) via my writing, subversively obtained a certain small but real power to control. Create & define reality; the next step is […] to enter (the ruling class) by the front door, officially welcomed. (& not infiltrate in by the back door as I did. But boy, what a good job I did; & VALIS is the best subversion so far… it deranges all (sic!) your learned preconceptions). Thus via my writing I can be said to be a revolutionary, & I carried with me into power, other people of my ilk. Many disenfranchised ‘misfits’—the quasi-insane, or pseudo (sic!) schizophrenics; ach! we are mimicking schizophrenia as a political tactic, in order to thrust the schizophrenic worldview onto the authorities as a tactic to infiltrate and vitiate them, ‘them’ being defined as those in power.”
In marked contrast to Dick’s humility and self-doubt before the mysteries of VALIS, this fascinating collection is marred by the trippier-than-thou hubris of Terence McKenna’s typically self-aggrandizing afterword, in which he proclaims himself the “PKD-inspired servant of the Logos” whose books and software (!) would have been embraced by Dick as the answer to his profound metaphysical inquiries. SS

Publisher: Miller
Paperback: 278 pages

Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism

David Fideler

A paramount work about the synthesis of Jewish, Greek and Egyptian secret teachings and their appearance as Christianity. The book delves into such intellectual phenomena as the linking of Logos with Christ, the use of gematria (symbolic and numerical representation of Greek and Hebrew letters) with Christian writings (e.g., Gospel of Mark 6:30-38), the Mithraic and Hermetic basis of Christianity, the use of geometry in religion in antiquity and the relationship between zodiac changes (every two thousand years) and the appearance of a savior. Encompassing fifteen years of work, this volume has includes complete documentation, a survey of Hellenistic religions and cosmology and an examination of Greek philosophers and mystics. MET

Publisher: Quest
Paperback: 430 pages

The Jesus Conspiracy: The Turin Shroud and the Truth About the Resurrection

Holger Kersten and Elmar R. Gruber

Jesus is alive and living in Las Vegas. Or was that Elvis? This is actually a less far-fetched idea than a water-walking, healing, immaculately conceived carpenter who dies on a cross, is resurrected, gets his own religion and becomes the invisible Supreme Being. The existence of God has been a healthy source of argument throughout the ages. But the religious side was always defended with the unanswerable “You can’t prove that he doesn’t exist.” Religious historian Holger Kersten and scientist Elmar R. Gruber have taken a first step in providing that proof.
The Jesus Conspiracy is a well-researched book that mostly deals with the Turin Shroud, the funeral cloth that bears the mysterious imprint of the crucified Jesus. For years its authenticity was questioned, and in 1988, three scientific laboratories working independently in different parts of the world used radio-carbon dating to prove that the cloth was a forgery. The authors have carefully re-created the events leading to the testing and conclude that ulterior motives were at work. The theory is presented that the cloth is authentic and the results have been tampered with. But why would anyone want to make the most revered relic of Christendom appear to be a fake? Kersten and Gruber’s research led them to a culture-shattering conclusion. The imprint on the cloth is of a man who was still alive when he was laid in the tomb. This challenges the fundamental core of Christianity, which is based on “the salvation” which Jesus is supposed to have vicariously obtained for all by his “death on the cross.” In short, what would become of the crucial sentence written by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, ‘And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain?’ (1 Cor. 15:14) The authors offer evidence that Christ was merely unconscious on the cross and the burial was a ruse to fool Pilate. His friends had given him an opiate-like substance that made him hang limp on the cross and be taken for dead, put him in the tomb, and rescued him when the coast was clear. The imprint on the burial cloth may have been made by a combination of chemicals, incense and body vapors. The rest of the story has been buried in 2,000 years of misinterpretation and theological manipulation. This theory also coincides with the recent uncovering and interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But, of course, zealots will still claim that this proves nothing. Perhaps the question should be posed that if Jesus was the Son of God and then later became the Lord, what ever happened to his dad? I’m sure he could answer a few questions. AN

Publisher: Element
Hardback: 373 pages

Jesus Lived in India: His Unknown Life Before and After the Crucifixion

Holger Kersten

“Why has Christianity chosen to ignore its connections with the religions of the East, and to dismiss repeatedly the numerous claims that Jesus spent a large part of his life in India?… As well as revealing age-old links between Israelites and the East, the evidence found by theologian Kersten points to the following startling conclusions: In his youth Jesus followed the ancient Silk Road to India; while there he studied Buddhism, adopting its tenets and becoming a spiritual master; Jesus survived the crucifixion; Jesus was buried in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, where he continues to be revered as a saintly man; the tomb of Jesus still exists in Kashmir.”

Publisher: Element
Paperback: 264 pages