we shall permit them even sin. They are weak and helpless and like children
will love us because we allow them to sin. We'll tell them that every
sin will be expiated, pardoned - if it is done with our permission."
THE GRAND INQUISITOR.
It is instructive how 'The
Love of God' fills so many millions with intolerance, rage and hate.
By the third century A.D. the Tunisian
Tertullian (one of the 'fathers of the Church' who turned Pentecostal
and thus was never sainted) was writing:
greatest joy of Heaven is in watching the torments of the damned in
a spectacle far more pleasing than any upon Earth.'
seeks to impose mere purpose upon an ineffably purposeless world.
can dream up a religion, but only those cults which are most amenable
become powerful and divide up & rule the world.
of course, is a kind of religion, a diffused but minor one.
God had not wanted us to be cannibals he would not have made us delicious
to eat, especially when very young.
most evil of beings are soldiers, who kill people and do not eat them.
is said that when St Columba came from Ireland to Iona (off the Scottish
west coast) and began building monasteries there and on neighbouring
islands, the walls of one of them kept falling down. Declaring that
this was because the customary sacrifice hadn't been made, Columba's
monks demanded that a human being be buried beneath the foundation stone.
The saint allowed the rite to be performed, and a monk named Oron was
chosen by lot to be the sacrificial victim. After he was buried under
the stone, the wall-collapses ended.
name remains in the name of the inner Hebridean island of Oronsay, on
which are the 14th century ruins of an ancient priory reputedly founded
by St Columba. A teaching monk or hermit, Oron may not have been chosen
by lot to die - for he was condemned by Columba for his teaching that
monks should castrate themselves...
nobody, because we 'feel in our bones' that it is too terrible to imagine,
much less accept.
The Zen of Disengagement
- The Cumæan Sybil
chemicals in brains.
God is dogshit on your shoe.
What's so wonderful with living ?
Nothing that we're told is true.
-Hymn to Diogenes
Most philosophy - and
all theology - is sophistry.
Apart from Schopenhauer
and Nietzsche, there have been very few true philosophers since
Classical philosophy and Seneca, the unfortunate Stoic from Córdoba,
were finally destroyed by the emperor Nero. Of the pre-Christian
Greek philosophers, by far the truest and most radical was Diogenes,
who is thought to have died in 320 BCE. Like his near-contemporary,Pyrrho,
he disdained writing.
He also disdained
- the hallowed Greek system of reasoned debate and persuasion
which has since 'Classical' times inspired councils and cabals,
and, of course, modern parliaments. His philosophy was based on
moral outrage, and did not allow for sordid compromise between
The most celebrated
son of Sinope, a Greek colony on the Black Sea coast of Turkey
(modern Sinop, whose towers still stand, unlike those of Trebizond
to the east - and which has been chosen as a site for a nuclear
power-station), Diogenes was the founder and most famous of
the Cynics - a Zen-like non-School of anti-Philosophy expounding
and embracing an ascetic and transcendental nihilism. He built
on the teachings and world-view of his slightly older contemporary,
whom he may - or may not - have met.
Diogenes took Antisthenes'
anti-worldliness to what is now (and was in Roman times) foolishly
considered an extreme, turning the latter's disregard for wealth
and worldliness into complete rejection. He believed that virtue
(the goal of most Greek philosophers but an irrelevance to consumer-societies)
could be attained only by fighting hypocrisy, greed and corruption
- i.e. conventional morality. He is famously said to have gone
around Athens with a lantern by day, vainly looking
for an honest personality. He would have agreed with Khayyám
that society is merely knots of people on puppet-strings of systems
of belief. It is likely that he disdained to write any
of his ideas down. In any event, all our information comes (like
our information on Jesus of Galilee) second-hand at best, many
of the anecdotes coming from Roman authors, and some, much later
again, from Muslims who saw Diogenes as a proto-Sufi.
I'm pretty certain that Diogenes would not have protested
with the bourgeois-liberal Occupy Wall Street movement, nor with
the fatuous French '68-ers. He was most likely a sideline-exceptionalist
like myself, sniping at all and sundry because he had very wisely
put himself in the position of having nothing to lose but life
itself - which he despised. Socrates-Plato, on the other hand,
had quite a lot to lose - notably reputation. Reputation, so valued
by patriarchal societies (which depend on female and other servility
of one kind or another), is a very fragile thing to want. But
few people realise it. The true philosopher puts him/herself at
the bottom of the local heap (in my case, as an unemployable)
from where he or she can look around with a clear (not necessarily
jaundiced) eye - knowing that s/he is as dying sperm in the rectum
source of information (and legend) about Diogenes is the third
century (AD) Roman doxographer Diogenes Laertius (as disorganised
as he was gullible), from whom much that follows is taken. The
"Cynicism" of ancient Greece and Rome had none of the opprobrium
that it has today: on the contrary, it was a passionate commitment.
The term comes from the Greek word forDog
: the Cynic School was a school for dogs - wiser, more spontaneous
and more down-to-earth than the sophists whom Diogenes despised,
and amongst whom he counted Plato. He seemed to regard Socrates
as disingenuous in his claim that he knew nothing and that no-one
knew more than he, but nevertheless pushed the Socratic dialectic
to a logical conclusion.
the hairy-shouldered (and legally-bigamous) Socrates, of course,
who was charged with negativism: 'moral corruption of the youth'
of an Athens which was then under a Spartan reign of terror. He
was democratically (if not justifiably) condemned to drink the
required cup of hemlock. Diogenes the Despiser, far more radical
in his views at a less dangerous (and less-democratic) point in
history, was far more easily-ignored.
in his canine sobriquet, and, of course, he had his kennel to
live in: the 'tub' (pithos) which was in fact an earthenware
barrel or cistern. I have recently seen a Spanish wine-vessel
in a Garden Centre in SW France, whose lip is 50 cms in diameter,
whose diameter at its widest is about 200 cms, and whose length
(it is laid lengthwise on the ground) is 250 cms, tapering to
a point. It would make a perfect dwelling for a frugal hermit,
and a blanket over the 'entrance' could make it quite snug if
temperatures did not get too low.
later imitators in Palestine and Syria, he had no house of his
own, and this is why the Latin name of the hermit crab is also
Diogenes. Being a householder was a necessary requirement
for taking part in the Assembly, as it was until recently a requirement
for a voter in the latter-day populist- or pseudo-democracies.
His unmarried status already put him beyond
the Pale. Nor did he have a job, for he despised the whole
system of obligation with which kinship, education, employment
and trade have burdened the 'beneficiaries' of civilisation.
Detail from 'Diogenes'
by John William Waterhouse.
One of the less-unrealistic romanticisations
of Diogenes in his earthenware dwelling,
by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1860.
to Lucian, when Diogenes was living in Corinth, the whole city
galvanised into action as Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander)
and his army approached the city. Diogenes got into his 'tub'
and energetically rolled it up and down the pavement. When asked
why he did so, he said it was "Just to make myself look as
active as the rest of you."
of Tyre wrote that Diogenes went to Delphi to consult the Oracle
of Apollo, and, as a result, he stripped himself of all superfluous
things, smashed the chains that had hitherto imprisoned his spirit,
and devoted himself to a wandering life of freedom, like a powerful
bird, unafraid of tyrants, dictatorships and governments, contemptuous
of human laws and politics, uninterested in political events,
natural and unnatural disasters, free from the stupidity of marriage
and the devouring octopus of the family, unwilling to labour in
the fields to feed himself, contemptuous of property and its acquisition,
and (most heinous of all) refusing to train in or take up arms
in a culture of perpetually-warring city-states: the greatest
'draft-dodger' of all. He could well be described as a hermetic
He is reported
as saying that whoever trusts the Cynics will remain single; those
who do not trust us will breed. And if humanity should cease to
exist, it will be no more calamitous than the extinction of dinosaurs
- or blowflies. And, according to one of his many Arab commentators,
when asked if he hated people he replied that he hated bad people
for their depravity and good people for their silence in the presence
of moral turpitude. Evil is advanced by the negligence of the
good-intentioned and the harmless.
has had more - and much more continuing - influence in Islamic
culture than in the Christian and post-Christian hedonistic world-view.
Certain Sufi groups,
especially the Malamatis,
took his anti-hypocritical, anti-worldly dissidence to heart.
Arab anecdote recounts that when people asked Diogenes why he
wouldn't talk with them, his trenchant reply was: "Because
you are too important for my subtlety and I am too subtle for
your importance." He would have observed that the senseless
modern need to acquire unimaginable amounts of 'information' on
the 'information-superhighway' is simply another infantile dependence
fomented by The Market whose system and effects he deplored. How
can an animal that surrounds itself with layer upon layer of dependency
call itself the present pinnacle of evolution ?
many commentators Diogenes was a peg on whom they could hang their
own Cynic world-view, because Cynicism was not a "school of philosophy",
but rather an "erratic succession of individuals" which began
with the moralist Antisthenes, who was a close friend of Socrates,
and was present at the latter's death. He disclaimed 'pure' (upper-class)
philosophy, believing that the plain man could know all there
is to know, and that a beggar would get to know it very soon.
Antisthenes was probably more consciously philosophical though
less clever than Diogenes. Antisthenes emphasized moral self-mastery
and is said to have rejected the ideas and institutions of government,
property, marriage and religion: all institutions that depend
upon dishonesty. (Without dishonesty there can be no politics,
while religion is comfort and certitude for the simple-minded.)
But while property was regarded as a kind of necessary evil by
Antisthenes, Diogenes stood up for theft, claiming "all things
are the property of the wise". He also, quite reasonably,
approved of cannibalism.
Ribera: Diogenes with his lamp.
The objective of Cynicism was spiritual self-sufficiency, integrity
and self-control (autarkeia), and the Cynic virtues were
qualities through which true freedom was attained: the very opposite
of modern mores. The most important virtue was impassive unattachment,
which, obviously, had to be attained through self-training. Whereas
the modern world has claimed to be guided by the false mantra
of 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity' - ludicrous Platonic ideals
trashed or abandoned as soon as they are declared - Diogenes would
have countered by scratching the slogan Humility, Frugality
and Integrity in the dirt, would have scratched his scrotum
and that of the nearest dog, and chuckled heartily. Humility is,
of course, the opposite of Puritanism, which derives from ego,
anger and vainglory - and has been one of the curses of Christianity
and all religions.
one of Diogenes' followers, reports the latter's epiphany of watching
a mouse darting about the marketplace, unfraid of monstrous humans
many hundreds of times its size, unfraid of dark places or what
the future might hold. Street dogs, too, are independent, simple,
adaptive, uncomplaining, exercising a freedom of speech which
most humans would not dare, entangled as they are by webs of obligation.
They can also guard - and Diogenes was a guardian of truth.
(if not all) philosophers and religious teachers, however, Diogenes
also favoured endurance (which we associate with the Stoics,
a later and anti-Cynic school) as a necessary ingredient of autarkeia.
The Cynic hero was Hercules, who always finished what he had started,
no matter how stupendous the task.
aimed as far as possible to disregard laws, customs, conventions,
and stupid, vicious tyrants such as public opinion, reputation,
honour and dishonour. The Greek satirist Lucian represents a Cynic
as saying, long before the advent of Reality TV: "Why not perform
the deeds of darkness in broad daylight ? Organise your sex-life
with a view to public entertainment!"
the Idealists were obsessed by the idea of The Truth, but
Diogenes was concerned by Truth. There is a world of difference
between a sentimental, abstract fiction concocted and protected
by upper class males, and the simple honesty of looking reality
in the eye and in the arsehole.
was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea. His father
was responsible for the minting of coins and when Diogenes took
to "defacement of the currency", which probably involved
coin-clipping, he was banished from the city. He went to Athens
with his slave Manes. Soon after their arrival, Manes fled. When
Diogenes was advised to chase his runaway slave he replied, "It
would be absurd if Diogenes cannot get on without Manes while
Manes is happy without Diogenes".
Diogenes sought Antisthenes as his mentor. Antisthenes ordered
him away and eventually beat him off with his staff. Diogenes
is quoted as saying, "Strike, for you will find no wood hard enough
to keep me away from you, so long as I think you've something
to say." The persistence of Diogenes broke the resistance of Antisthenes,
who taught at the Cynosarges: the park of the white (or swift)
dog (the Athenian greyhound track ?), thus providing his anti-school
with its name. Various temples stood in the Cynosarges, most importantly
a temple to Herakles (Hercules) whom the Cynics identified with
as a strong but not proud hero in a culture of heroes of overweening
pride - the man who cleaned the Augean Stables. They admired ruggedness
or endurance, a trait which had unfortunate consequences for the
split-off Stoics and fed into the ghoulish pseudo-cannibalistic
blood-cult of Christianity.
was also a place where foreigners, non-citizens, hippies and 'bastards'
hung out. Antisthenes was, in Athenian law, illegitimate because
his mother was a Thracian slave. Antisthenes was the first to
call himself a dog - indeed, The Absolute Dog. So the Cynics
got their name because of Antisthenes self-description, the canine
associations of the park, and the 'outrageous' behaviour
of Diogenes and his anti-Idealism in both the philosophic and
the demotic sense.
observed that if the great musician or athlete were to devote
similar effort to training their mind or moral conduct and living
life well, the results would be marvellous. He also noted that
just as those who are accustomed to a life of pleasure feel disgust
when they experience the opposite, those habituated to a lack
of pleasure seem to derive great pleasure from despising pleasure.
Morally depraved men, he said, obey their lusts as servants obey
their masters. He called love the business of the idle and said
that lovers derive their pleasure from the shared misfortune of
their drug-like dependence.
Diogenes, by Lovis Corinth, 1891.
something of the Zen and the Tibetan Master about Diogenes - and
the haikai of Santoka
in the 1930s and 1940s are highly Diogenean. He was a special
kind of urban hermit - a privileged Street Person living ascetically
but publicly in the centre of Athens - the opposite of the Christian
hermits who followed a religious tradition which derived from
India. Diogenes learned early on one of the fundamental principles
of 'The Good Life', namely ascetic frugality: less is better than
as Diogenes was known as the
Dog throughout Athens, at a feast certain people
kept throwing all the bones to him as they would to a dog. He,
understanding that dogs in their simple humility and formidable
logic are the pinnacle of evolution as we in our complex arrogance
are not, played a dog's trick and urinated on them. It is said
that Diogenes trampled upon Plato's carpets with the words "I
trample upon the pride of Plato!" - who retorted, "Yes, Diogenes,
with pride of another sort." Touché ?
'Apart from dogs,
less than a handful of people that I've met
are better companions than my thoughts.'
This philosophical attitude is the essence of what Diogenes had
to say, which may be summed up as: Neither seek nor want
the approbation of any human being. It is the desire for
approval and praise that enslaves us to the outrageous conventions
which form 'the fabric of civilisation' and make us completely
unnatural and discontent animals. Most people will do almost anything
to keep others off their backs. Freedom from the desire for approval
is the only route to integrity, autonomy, and what Jung called
individuation. Jesus of Galilee (like all other merely-religious
teachers) did not get quite so far in his call to integrity ("The
Kingdom of Heaven") - not least because his focus was limited
to Jews, and rested on a confraternity of mutual psycho-physical
support, a network of Essene commensality, rather than Diogenes'
aloof self-exclusion. Diogenes had the wisdom to trust opprobrium
more than praise: a rare achievement.
Zanchi: Diogenes with his lamp - and an owl (symbol of Pallas
whether death was an evil thing, Diogenes replied, "How can it
be malign, when in its presence we are not aware of it?" Since
his time, Christianity has cheapened death through its tinsel
'salvation' - has cheapened it by claiming to cheat it. Death
has been rendered a terminal failure; and suicide, far from a
supremely dignified and noble act, has become shameful, "a
cry for help", an act of despair or desperation, of selfishness.
or a culture or a society which cannot accommodate suicide is
a religion, or culture or society of slavery to infantilism.
declared that life is an evil, he said, "Not life itself, but
living badly." To one who protested that he was poorly adapted
for the study of philosophy, he said, "Why then do you live, if
you do not care to live well?" Seeing a youth dressing with elaborate
care, he said, "If it's for men, you're a fool; if for women,
a knave." Being asked what creature's bite is the most deadly,
he said, "Of those that are wild, a sycophant's; of those that
are tame, a flatterer's".
he was invited to dinner, he declared that he wouldn't go - because
the last time he went, his host had not expressed a proper gratitude.
On another occasion, he was taken to a magnificent house and,
being warned not to spit, he cleared his throat and fired his
phlegm into the servant's face, being unable, he said, to find
a meaner receptable. He is also reported as declaring that in
the house of a rich man the best place to spit is in his face.
him washing vegetables, came up to him and quietly said to him,
"Had you paid court to Dionysus you wouldn't now be washing vegetables."
Diogenes with equal calmness answered, "If you had washed vegetables,
you wouldn't be paying court to Dionysus." One day he called out
for men to come, and when a group collected, he poked them with
his stick, saying, "It was men I called for, not scoundrels."
Detail from Raphael's School of Athens.
(Goldenmouth) described Diogenes as terminating a discourse by
squatting down and evacuating his bowels in the presence of his
hearers. It is also said that he had no qualms about masturbating
or performing other sexual acts in public. Being asked why people
give to beggars, but not to philosophers, he said, "Because they
think they may one day be lame or blind, but never expect that
they will turn to philosophy."
when Anaximenes was discussing some point publicly, Diogenes held
up a piece of salt fish, and diverted the attention of his hearers.
Seeing Anaximenes' indignation,Diogenes said: "See, a pennyworth
of salt fish has put an end to the lecture of Anaximenes."
about living with integrity, and people will shun you like a leper.
Put on a street performance, and you've got an eager audience.
a beggar by choice, in a society where beggars were not swept
up into hostels, Reception Centres, or concentration camps, he
put his hand out to someone mean, who said, "I'll give you money
- if you can persuade me why I should."
"If I could have convinced you of anything," rejoined Diogenes,
"I would have persuaded you to hang yourself."To another
mean man he said: "I asked you for the means to keep body
and soul together, not to separate them for ever."
have concurred with Nietszche (perhaps his only modern pupil)
that civilisation is a grotesque 'festival of cruelty'. Nevertheless,
he was not an atheist, and no Greek thinker was a pessimist. Indeed,
the only modern pessimist philosopher is Schopenhauer, a man who
extended the principles and insights of Diogenes - but was not
a Street Person.
is the obsession of the under-amused
and self-love the obsession of the rich.'
to Dio Chrysostom, Diogenes drily observed that dipus could
have solved his little problem simply by legalising incest in
Thebes. It is perhaps attributions like this which have created
the modern meaning of cynicism. But if other creatures - and indeed
contemporaneous Persians - had no terrible incest-taboo, why had
the Greeks ?
On a voyage
to Ægina, an island 50 kms from Athens, he was allegedly
captured by pirates, conveyed to Crete and exposed for sale as
a slave. When he was asked what he could do he replied, "Govern
men." And he told the crier to give notice in case anybody wanted
to purchase a master for himself. To Xeniades who bought him he
said, "You must obey me, although I am a slave; for, if a physician
or a navigator were in slavery, he would be obeyed." Xeniades
took him to Corinth and had him run his household.
Diogenes in a Landscape, by
Nicolas Poussin (17th century).
Here he notices a young man drinking from a pond or stream with
and consequently throws away as redundant his only possession:
a metal cup.
When someone extolled the good fortune and splendour another had
experienced at the court of Alexander the Great, Diogenes said:
"That's not good, but bad fortune - for he breakfasts and dines
only when Alexander thinks fit."
goes that Alexander came to him when he was living in his famous
tub (wine-jar) and asked: "I am Alexander the great king. Are
you not afraid of me?"
"And I," came the reply, "am Diogenes the Cynic. And are
you a good thing or a bad?"
"A good thing", answered Alexander. Whereupon Diogenes asked:
"Who, then, is afraid of the good?"
On a different
(apocryphal) occasion Diogenes was sunning himself when Alexander
stood over him and said, "Ask of me any boon you like." To which
he replied, "Don't deprive me of what you cannot give me"
- i.e. sunlight. Alexander smartly stepped aside.
Alexander is reported to have said, "Had I not been Alexander,
I should have liked to be Diogenes." As it turned out, both Diogenes
and Alexander died in 323 B.C., Alexander being 33 and Diogenes
'Between the propertied and the poor in
spirit there is little space.'
Diogenes is credited with the development of the chreia
(moral epigram), with a scandalous attack on convention and the
Athenian notion of freedom (confined to aristocratic males) entitled
Republic (not to be confused with Plato's which, for good
and ill, survives), and with tragedies illustrative of the human
predicament. The followers of Diogenes - Crates, Menedemus, and
Menippus - imitated all his eccentricities and so exaggerated
the anti-social elements in the Cynic system that the school finally
fell into disrepute in Greece, but flourished elsewhere, notably
in Syria and Galilee. Nevertheless, there were in the Cynic philosophy
elements, especially the ethical element, which later became subsumed
in the more socially-acceptable Stoic School. This element, combined
with the broader Stoic idea of the usefulness of intellectual
culture and the more enlightened Stoic concept of the scope of
logical dialogue and discussion, reappeared in the philosophy
of Zeno and Cleanthes, and was the - somewhat pallid - central
ethical doctrine of the last system of Greek philosophy - which
fed into Christianity, whose founder had more in common with Diogenes
than with Zeno or Socrates.
The Cynics were a very strong influence in the Hellenistic culture
of the Eastern Mediterranean just before the arrival of Jesus,
and the original teachings that survive in the "Q-Gospel" suggest
that Jesus - who regarded the staff and knapsack as too much property
- was one of many successors of Diogenes who were teaching and
practising in Hellenised Syria, and in Galilee which had only
recently come under Jewish control. (Ironically, the staff and
knapsack later became emblems of the pilgrimage to Compostela.)
The connection from Diogenes continues,
from about the 10th century, into Sufi thought. Sufis have often
referred to themselves as Dogs, like Diogenes, partly in reaction
against the general irredeemable cruelty of Muslims towards canines,
and partly in admiration of the humility, instructability, good
faith and steadfastness of dogs.
Diogenes - who today would hardly be allowed to express himself
outside India (and there only if he were Hindu) - evidently realised
that we choose to be governed by the manipulators of fictions:
money, religion and the nation-state. Political entities are fictions
that most people choose to believe - but it is now evident that
they are not really viable. They are either too big (empires and
"federations" which are empires by another name) or too artificial,
like the states of Africa. In all cases there is the tendency
to fragment into small aggressive ethnic and/or linguistic purities.
Only very powerful lies and inducements can hold them together.
like Omar Khayyám,
whereas Jesus and Muhammad were rural) also understood that civilisation
(town-based culture which is 98% smash-and-grab and 2% art) itself
actually makes life much more difficult and bitter for almost
everyone. But its own propaganda of property (and religions which
support it) is highly successful in incorporating us into a belief
in our own god-given superiority instead of a recognition of our
pathetic dependence on artefacts and comfort. As humans move farther
and farther away from the structure of the gathering band (hunting
is comparatively recent in our history), towards the destructive
discreteness of the family, their emotions become more disjunct
from their way of life. With money
and the oppressive corruption that it brings, comes most of the
misery of the world. Controlled capitalism in western quasi-democracies
(where both financial transactions and government are accountable
to at least some of the people to some extent) is the least odious
of monetary economic systems - but it is nonetheless odious in
expressed his view of Plato's Idealism by throwing into Plato's
Lyceum a plucked (presumably dead) cockerel - representing the
Ideal Man according to Plato's definition of him 'a featherless
biped', as a result of which
of which "...with broad nails" was added to Plato's definition.
Unfortunately, thanks to neo-Platonic Christianity, that deified
cock has ruled us with its ridiculous, impossible, world-exhausting
and (as Diogenes appreciated) banal perfectionism ever since.
The cock has become a battery hen and we live in a Disney Valhalla
in the Museum of Sleep which we call progress. Here
is Plato's man! (Of course, progress is just a secularised
version of the Judæo-Christian Divine Will.)
Da Carpi: Diogenes (woodcut after Parmigianino)
showing Plato's featherless biped on the right.
There is, however, an anti-hypocritical - that is more or less
to say anti-religious - line connecting Diogenes of Sinope with
Jesus of Nazareth, Abu al-'Ala al-Ma'arri of Syria, Sufi
saints, and Omar
Khayyám of Nishapúr (who was educated
at Balkh) - a line which, very significantly, does not connect
with Muhammad or with the moulders of Christianity, Peter and
Paul, who were marketing a revealed Messiah. Khayyám (a
tent-maker very different from St Paul) was roughly contemporary
with heretical movements in the West which sprung up (like the
Crusades) following the first Millennium, and which died out,
were suppressed, or - as in the last of them, led by St Francis
and St Clare - were quickly institutionalised, defused and absorbed
into monstrously hypocritical orthodoxy which then proceeded with
its genocide against the Cathars. Others included the Waldensians,
the Brethren of the Free Spirit, and the Beghards who gave us
the word beggar. These too were optimists, but with perceptions
rendered rather more fuzzy than Diogenes' by layers of Christian
mythology and hagiography.
fool in mediæval and modern times is attested by Shakespeare
(especially in King Lear) and by Velázquez
famous portraits of Don
Sebastián de Morro and two other dwarves (Lezcano and
de Acedo) at the court of Philip IV of Spain. Apparently,
they were intended to be seen together with his portraits
of the Cynic philosopher Menippus and of Æsop the moralist,
both of whom were employed by royalty.
There is something
of a parallel between the historical Diogenes and the Christian
parable of Lazarus
the beggar whose sores were licked by dogs as he starved under
the rich man's table - even though Diogenes was not taken up into
Abraham's bosom, but died unrecorded, almost unnoticed like a
true philosopher, a true follower of Dao. Parables are a teaching-method
and Diogenes, as Luis E. Navia points out, was something of a
missionary of truth despite his contempt of the bourgeoisie who
supported him and the masses to whom he was largely indifferent.
(I can report that as contempt for people grows with age, the
happier one becomes.) Instead of parables, Diogenes went in for
Performance Philosophy, and was, as Navia says, "a walking
riot" who in most European countries today would be in an
institution of some sort. One report says that he would not take
on a disciple unless the latter would do something ridiculous
in public, such as spend a day walking round and round with a
large fish on his shoulder - or, like the celebrated Gérard
de Nerval, taking a lobster for a walk in the park. In other words,
he would not be friends with anyone who was not open to his philosophy.
He had, indeed, no need of friends at all.
A little later than
- who, also ascetic, was certainly influenced by Buddhism - founded
the Skeptic School of philosophy, which ultimately led via Montaigne
(and the false skeptic Descartes) to David Hume, and onward to
the quasi-skeptical basis of 'modern science' based on our belief
in observation. Pyrrho,
however, concluded that human senses transmit neither truth nor
falsehood, and thus we cannot draw verifiable conclusions about
anything. Pyrrho's philosophy might be summed up in the hermetic
declaration "By acatalepsia to ataraxia !" (by
suspension of judgement to freedom from worry) - the opposite
of and antidote to "Per ardua ad astra". Diogenes,
however, certainly did not believe in Pyrrho's anti-doctrine of
As with Diogenes,
none of Pyrrho's writings survive, and all reports of his teaching
are hearsay from a much later date.
'official' follower was Krates, a rich man who divested himself
of mere and vulgar wealth in order to live a life of integrity.
The famous follower of Krates was Zeno the Compromiser, who transformed
the Zen of Integrity into Stoicism, which became, in turn, the
dreary Roman Philosophy of Duty, whose chief exponents were Seneca
the failed teacher of Nero, and the prim Roman monarch, Marcus
Aurelius. Thus the teaching of the philosopher of utter integrity
led to the Ayatollahs of the Work Ethic who have taken over -
and are fanatically destroying - the world, and all worlds of
the mind. And thus Christianity shifted from the dangerously Diogenean
to the prissily Stoic-collaborationist.
And thus all teaching
is ultimately false, as Diogenes himself pointed out.
There have been wiser men than Diogenes
- but they were too wise to be noticed.
A Roman representation of Diogenes with staff,
lamp - and pert little dog,
rather than a Molossian
mastiff from the mountains of Albania,
which would seem more appropriate.
Did Jesus suffer
from Survivor Guilt ? After all, he survived - and was, allegedly,
the very reason for - the alleged Massacre of the Innocents. So
it would be no wonder that he would choose crucifixion as expiation
- if he ever existed at all as a single, mortal being, and not
a composite of several legendary itinerant preachers, who might
or might not have been associated with the sect known to outsiders
There are many amazing
things about the phenomenon of Christianity - the first of which
is that it has very little to do with Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee,
and should properly be called post-Paulinism. None
of the texts of the New Testament was written by anyone who knew
Jesus: all of them were written some thirty years later by converts,
the most flaky of whom was John. Paul in his many epistles never
mentions the life or 'example' of Jesus, nor the Parables, but
dwells on the Crucifixion and Resurrection as prologue to the
Second Coming and the transfiguration of Man. Jesus' quasi-universalist
approach to salvation from Original Sin was expanded by Paul,
whose rôle as whirlwind secretary-general and religious
empire-builder was thereby enhanced.
popular idea of the Jesus (or, should I say Jewsus) sect
being taken over systematically by Paul the dictator-organiser-missionary
seems pretty well to be the case. Ignoring Jesus' message and
its implications while turning the mumbo-jumbo of the Virgin Birth,
etc. into Scripture had a profound and disastrous influence. For
it was not only the Desert Fathers and sects and split-offs such
as the Pelagians and Manichæans (and later Cathars) who
rejected it. The Prophet M'hamed, who himself was creating a syncretic
religion in remote Arabia, could not possibly have adopted the
ludicrous creeds of the Christian Churches, and so he created
an Islam based largely on Judaism, while at the same time as fully
aware as Paul was that utopianism creates tyrants.
The second amazing
thing is that this anti-rational religion should have spawned
a European culture which also claims to be based on Reason, but
actually is just another element of 'Christian' syncretism often
calling itself 'Humanism'.
The third is that
European Reason continues to be scared of applying itself directly
to the phenomenon of Christianity/post-Paulinism - for fear of
rocking the unsteady boat of unnatural and world-destroying 'social
An interesting interpretation
of Jesus and his 'bodyguards' is popularised by the spy-thriller-writer
Charles McCarry, in his Old Boys (2004).
The Israeli priesthood was a thorn
in the side of the Roman governor, continually fomenting
unrest. The Romans wanted to put the priests in their debt
in order to control them - so they manufactured a threat
to priestly authority (a certain Joshua ben Joseph), financed
the mischief he made, and then solved the non-problem by
the elaborate (but inexpensive) charade described in much
greater detail than any event preceding it in the New Testament.
In other words,
Jesus (Jeshua, Joshua) was a handy LeCarresque fall guy whose
handler was Paul. Or perhaps Peter. (Judas might have been Jesus'
only disciple, while the others were his minders.) The miracles
were easy to fake by any member of the Magic Circle, while Lazarus
could have been 'raised' from a comatose state by well-palmed
smelling-salts. (Many unconscious people were, throughout history,
wittingly or unwittingly, buried alive.) Numbers are routinely
exaggerated by those whose interests lie in exaggeration, eye-witnesses
are notoriously unreliable, and the susceptibility of even 'rational'
people to suggestion is alarming. So Jesus was 'cooked up' as
a threat to the priesthood by his Roman (or pro-Roman) handler,
then done away with by due process in return for collaboration
with the occupying power. The collaboration did not last long,
of course, and the arrogant and aggressive priesthood, in true
Israeli fashion, met its Waterloo (to mix metaphors mischievously)
a few decades later, when the temple of Solomon and Herod the
Great was destroyed, and the Israelis dispersed throughout the
Mediterranean and beyond to Africa and Central Asia.
Shortly after these
events, either Peter or Paul or both, whatever roles they had
played in the 'security' operation, were so affected by Jesus
that they started a new sect which Paul transformed into a second,
syncretic and ultimately world-destroying monotheism, without
which the third monotheism would not have been concocted.
interpretation is rather more convincing than Christian dogma.
But, by applying Occam's Razor, a less-complicated version might
be suggested: that Judas, dismayed by Jesus' enjoyment of celebrity,
felt that Jesus had betrayed his own teachings. So Judas delivered
him up, not for money, but because Jesus was a false prophet.
The rest was politics. And Roman politics involved hundreds of
thousands of crucifixions lining main roads not just to Rome,
but to all provincial capitals.
child can recognise and question the contradictions, inconsistencies,
interpolations and downright tosh in the New Testament. But the
pertinent questions of an open mind are rarely answered, and the
child's intelligence ignored, so that s/he either accepts the
contradictions as 'faith' or, like teacher or parent, simply gives
up on the topic altogether as one he is not competent or willing
to bother with, but which lurks insidiously nonetheless everywhere
in our culture - where, as in others, intelligence is suppressed
The finding of the
Dead Sea Scrolls, however, suddenly turned good minds to questioning
the authenticity of the New Testament. One of the great results
of this has been the distillation of the 'Q' or source-Gospel
from the liquor and lees of accretion and inconsistency. From
the various analyses of John Dominic Crossan, Robert W. Funk,
Burton L. Mack, A.N. Wilson, M. Faruk Zein, Geza Vermes and
others we learn (what was obvious to any child who was encouraged
to read the New Testament) that 'Christianity' is a strange house
of cards built around an historical but obscure Jesus as a kind
of armature to build a syncretic religious engine which was meant
to welcome the returning saviour, but which would, over the centuries,
power (but not empower) humanity.
The Jesus of the
'Q-Gospel' - cleansed from what has been added to or changed by
pre- and post-Pauline writers and sectarians - turns out not to
be a magical-mystical divine figure at all, but a simple local
prophet who for just one year (29/30 AD), sought to apply the
anti-hypocritical tenets of Diogenes of Sinope to the Jewish rabbinical
(Pharisaic) tradition and especially the Torah. There were many
provincial preachers scattered through Syria, Judæa and
the recently-annexed frontier-province of Galilee. Jesus was just
one of them - who happened to become immortal not because he was
the Son of God (a term never used in the Gospels) but because
he was a handy basis for the Great Religion that Paul's successors
would unwittingly create, largely out of Mithraism, Neo-Platonism
If indeed he was
a single historical figure who was indeed crucified, it was because
he was a radical reformist within 'Judaism', removed by judicial
execution within days of disrupting the profitable business of
animal sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, which he, almost
certainly vegetarian as well as ascetic (the two go together,
after all) thought obscene and corrupt. The early Jewish Christians
(who loathed Paul firstly as an apostate and secondly as a politician
and compromiser) were vegetarian. But Paul, in his mission to
dilute Jesus' message in order to make more and more converts
(as is the tendency among missionaries) removed vegetarianism
and other concrete expressions of saintliness in favour of vaguer
tenets of belief rather than practice. In the end, Christians
split, not over how to live a life of integrity, but over points
of doctrine - such as the nature of the Trinity - which would
have enraged any itinerant preacher fighting against theology.
From Judaism intoto
the future world religion came the bogus 'Royal' pedigree, the
doctrine of Original Sin and the Messianic prophecies. But for
Paul, Original Sin was not an inherited curse (as it was for St
Augustine), but the state of divorce from God's Natural World
which is perpetuated, through culture, from generation to generation.
This Structural Alienation is of course made ever greater by human
institutions, and not least by the Christian churches.
From Mithraism (itself
a syncretic cult) came the slain and risen deity (Attis, Osiris,
etc.) - though the idea of resurrection, so vital to Christians
and so irrelevant to Jesus' message, had already entered Jewish
thought. From various cults in Syria and Egypt came the Virgin
Goddesses who gave birth to saviour-gods. From several Asian cults
came the idea of trinity. From Neo-Platonism came a whole conventionalist
moral ethos which had nothing to do with the simple, non-revolutionary,
quietist Commensalism of Jesus, who established a Network of Compassion
through his band of misfits and outcasts, which welcomed even
women (designated as 'whores'), non-Jews and slaves to their Tables
of Companionship. (To understand how radically outrageous such
a movement still is, remember that the word cretin derives
from the French for Christian. It
is no accident that the meanings of the words Cynic and
Christian have been grotesquely, unrecognisably distorted
from their original meanings.)
CHIEF FUNCTION OF RELIGION IS TO JUSTIFY THE POSSESSION OF LAND.
and American 'New Age' myth-makers have woven a magico-religious
tapestry (more like a miasma) around alleged and unsubstantiatred
Great Goddess cults. What the Jesus-sectarians managed
to do was to build, by degrees, a magical religion of mystical
worldliness out of the person of a very unworldly man who was,
in essence, what we would now call - at least half-contemptuously
- a dervish. Beneath all the "interpretations" and the
trappings and borrowings from other cults there is, in fact, a
teaching which is rather less coherent - and decidedly more Jewish
- than that of Diogenes the anti-teacher. The core of post-Pauline
Christianity is not the anti-institutional doctrine of utter poverty
and humility propagated by the followers of Diogenes, but a Martyrdom-and-Resurrection
Salvation-Mystery dreamed up by a kind of doctrinal Hollywood,
which embellished a dead hero with epithets such as Son of God,
Lord (Kyrie not Basileus), Adonai, Lamb of God,
and Christ, a Greek translation of the Hebrew word 'Mashiach'
(Messiah), meaning 'anointed' - though Jesus was, famously, baptised
and never, as kings were, anointed.
And baptised by
John the Baptist, who might have been an ex-Essene, for the Essenes
used immersion as a token of purification of the spirit and body
together. Judaism was not a dualistic religion like Zoroastrianism.
It was the Hellenic influence that brought the dualism which is
inherent in Christianity, though its logical conclusions (as professed
by the Manichæans, Bogomils, Cathars, etc.) were always
The term 'Sons of
God' described prophets, the righteous, the humble, and peacemakers:
Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of
These terms would
have appalled the Jesus of the Gospels, whose references there
to the 'Son of Man' are all in the third person, and not Book-of-Daniel-descriptions
of himself as Messiah. He, like Muslims, regarded himself merely
as a prophet, and would have been deeply embarrassed to have been
addressed as 'Lord' or 'My Lord'. If not, then he was just another
hypocrite - which is indeed very possible, since he is reported
as saying "Before Abraham was, I am." This suggests
that he thought he was God (or anavatar of Adam), and if it is
not an interpolation or a mischievous report, then he was even
more unhinged than John the Baptist.
Be that as it may,
the common term for 'Son of Man' in Hebrew (ben-Adam)
also (merely) means 'human'. The core-teaching of Jesus - that
the only salvation is simple, undramatic, pious renunciation -
runs largely counter to the strand of Jewish expansionism, royalism,
nationalism and racism of what we now call "The Old Testament"
- so it was immediately stifled by blankets of myth, legend, interpolations
and sophistic doctrine when the vengeance-permeated Jewish Canon
became part of 'Christianity'. Once this 'Christianity' became
an engine of the Roman Empire, terrifying epithets such as 'King
of Kings' were piled on to the poor rustic Galilean who lived
in Diogenean integrity as a self-outcast, preaching so briefly
only to and for the Chosen People - who, unfortunately and short-sightedly,
were seeking a Messiah to 'liberate' them from Roman rule.
The Roman seat of
power was Cæsarea, on the coast between modern Tel-Aviv
and Haifa. The Jewish centre of power was Jerusalem, far to the
south and east, where the Temple of the Invisible God stood as
a huge and disquieting puzzle to polytheistic Romans. For an itinerant
prophet to process from Galilee to Jerusalem with a llittle entourage
which hailed him as Descendant of David was to invite surveillance
and arrest by the Roman authorities. His talk of a Kingdom (whether
of the meek or the ritually-pure) would have been interpreted
as political and subversive by the Romans, rather as Gandhi was
viewed by the British in India.
in the possibility of establishing a moral 'Kingdom' of an essentially
loving God - a Perfect Society - for the Jews only through
anti-hypocritical behaviour based on the Torah, and gentle, charitable,
peaceful faith and trust in the Jewish God, his 'Father in Heaven'
The 'Kingdom' of Heaven (Basileia) would better be translated
as God's Domain - one like his 'Father's House' which had 'many
apartments'. With Peter and Paul the Kingdom of Heaven turned
into the Church: the end became the means, and has remained so.
The detailed descriptions of Hell
(with some Jewish elements) were, of course, later interpolations.
The Jewish religion
is essentially a religion of ritual: perform the actions and obey
the taboos and you will be accepted by your fellow-Jews in the
name of God. Christianity, influenced by the Greeks, is a religion
of belief: doctrine is important as it is not in Judaism - which
comfortably included atheists as well as Hasidim. Islam, unfortunately,
is a mixture of both - and there is no escape if you are born
world to live in is what we mean by religion."
By 100 AD there were already three
different schools of Christianity, all founded on different epistles
of Paul. A major concern of Christianity (in stark contrast to
Buddhism) has been to remove or to synthesise competing schools.
Shortly after the beginning of the second century the Roman Christian,
Marcion, attempted to get Christianity back to its neo-Diogenean
roots (though the Judaic ideas of redemption, salvation and Heaven
would have been ludicrous to Diogenes) by denying the relevance
of the Old Testament and its testosteronal sky-god, and establishing
a picture of Jesus not as divine magician but someone more like
the penultimate prophet described by Mohamed. But Christianity
could never be accepted in Rome without great historical pedigree
- which could be provided only by the Old Testament. Without this
dead weight Christianity would have remained to the authorities
in Rome just a dangerously egalitarian cult of slaves and orientals.
myths of the Last Supper, betrayal, passion, crucifixion, resurrection
and apotheosis of Jesus are all riddled with contradictions -
such as the impossibly quixotic Entry into Jerusalem, obviously
dreamed up or embellished after Jesus' death - which might have
been by crucifixion at the hands of the nervous Romans, but might
just as easily been by being walled up by one or more (Peter -
Jesus' would-be image-consultant - and Judas - the one who saw
through su ch claptrap as 'The poor are always with us'
?) of his own disciples (for failing to be the Messiah) and left
to starve. But this was only the beginning of a long process which
soon included the Virgin Birth, derived from a mis-translation
into Greek - curiously entangled with differing, bogus genealogies
of Joseph from David the war-lord who became a king, derived from
Paul's bald statement of Jesus' royal descent in his epistle to
the Romans. Paul was keen to attract Romans to his new religion,
and the reason for inventing the incredible story of King Herod's
'Massacre of the Innocents' was to further calumniate the Jews
in order to divert attention away from the Roman governor, Pontius
founded on false witness. The Gospels tell stories that are both
deficient and conflicting - obviously the result of the mix and
match and patch of myth, fable, cover-up, calumny, doctrine, retrospective
prophecy, mis-transcription and mis-translation that almost fill
the New Testament. It is also, like all monotheisms, founded on
solipsistic arrogance. The very idea of an omnipotent god who
is interested in us individually is both ludicrous and self-aggrandising.
Of course, Paul
was unwitting in his ad hoc creation of the rules of the
Welcoming Committee (as it were) because he expected the Second
Coming within a few years at most. He never imagined that his
letters, written for immediate needs, would become Holy Scripture
in a future Holy Bible whose New Testament would consist of three
'synoptic' Gospels (written as hagiography by people not born
when Jesus lived) and a fourth visionary one in which Paul's human
Master turns into an avatar of the Jewish God, followed by Paul's
own story in Acts, followed by his own letters, other epistles
- and a hallucinatory Revelation. Paul saw his mission as to prepare
the world for the end that he (and many people at the time, including
Jesus) was sure was imminent. He would have been horrified and
dumbstruck to learn that the world would go on for at least two
thousand years, getting ever worse and, eventually, ruled by the
'antichrist' of speculative (gambling-with-billions) capitalism
(the very antithesis of both Paul's teachings and those of Jesus),
an important part of whose development would be the 'Christian'
- especially the Protestant - churches.
As for the Revelation
or Apocalypse of the vengeful John of Patmos upon which many unpleasant
'Christian' groups have built their intolerant temples: this is
perhaps the first (and most gripping) example of pulp fiction
concerning an end of the world which has nothing whatever to do
with Jesus' teaching and everything to do with Zoroastrian Dualism
(which originated in that part of ancient Persia which is now
the Republic of Azerbaijan, Jewish revenge theology and horrific
reports of the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by the 'resurrection'
of a 'dead' volcano.
that is 'Christianity' is founded, like no other world religion,
on a tissue of altered reports, invented lies, Chinese Whispers
and mind-insulting doctrines such as the Trinity and the latterly
dreamed-up Transubstan-iation. (I believe because it is absurd,
wrote the early theologian, Tertullian.) Hinduism has whole soap-operas
of gods, who are 'As-If' beings, metaphors, aspects and avatars
- not sole saviours of the world. Judaism is a purely ethnic religion
bound up in the myths, legends and history of a remarkable people.
Islam's dependence on myths of magical intervention by the Archangel
Gabriel (dictating the Koran, transporting the Prophet through
the Seven Heavens on his night flight to Jerusalem) and the magical
ascent by the Prophet to Heaven from Jerusalem does not affect
the moral teaching within the Koran and the Hadith (sayings of
Mohamed) - the only two texts of authority. But if the myths,
fabrications and accretions are removed from the New Testament's
syncretic mish-mash of 'Christianity', almost nothing remains
- except something Jewish and similar to the reported teachings
(three centuries old) of Diogenes of Sinope: the 'Q' Gospel. Moreover,
the different sects, branches and schools of Buddhism, Judaism
and Islam have never fought each other half so bitterly as the
'Christians' amongst themselves. Indeed any non-Muslim can enter
a mosque at any time and even fall asleep there !
There are almost as many
'versions' of Jesus as there are Christians
- and (in my case) anti-Christians!
Manifold and utterly eclectic,
Christianity very quickly reversed its message to endow the Emperor,
the clergy and the rich with holiness.
In this nasty, cynical, corrupt tradition, Evangelical Churches
in Africa and the United States claim that wealth
is the sign of God's grace, and poverty is the just punishment
of the Lord of Hosts.
At best, anti-worldly,
anti-institutional, anti-hierarchical, anti-family, itinerant
and penniless, Jesus was almost the opposite of the John-Pauline
fabrication and the post-Pauline organisational and doctrinal
products of various Churches. Paul would have despised the real
Jesus - as he indeed reported before his 'conversion' to a religion
which he largely created. But he saw an opportunity briefly to
play God and Cecil B. de Mille, and remould a conveniently-obscure
dervish as the prophesied Messiah, while deliberately setting
his Cult of Jesus in opposition to all forms of Judaism.
The obscure Judaic
dervish, however, may well have been a kind of hippy degeneration
of the Diogenic model: erratic, impulsive and with more than a
touch of religious megalomania, thus making him the opposite of
the Diogenic model, just as hippies were, almost to a man (women
had very little to do with hippydom or Christianity), the opposite
of spiritual and egalitarian liberators.
Be this as it may,
Christians have followed Paul's example: the very story of the
Apocalypse (Conversion) of St Paul is another invention of "Luke"
who wrote "his" Gospel (and the Acts of the Apostles)
25 years after Paul's death. Paul himself makes no reference to
it in his letters, as he certainly would if he had experienced
(or invented) it himself. St Augustine based many of his puritan
ideas on the "Acts of St Paul", a work since expunged
from the canon.
And so it has continued,
with more and more projections and imaginings adhering to this
snowball of a religion - with Mary (a tabula rasa even
more obscure than Jesus) becoming the subject of mythography (Immaculate
Conception, Assumption etc.). The 'Holy Family' becomes the 'Christian'
model, even though Jesus, like all voluntarily-homeless, itinerant
and somewhat-manic preachers, abandoned his for a Band of Brothers
not so dissimilar from some of the sects- such as the Cathars
- that orthodox christianities would persecute, torture and burn
in his name. Jesus the dervish or prophet became the god to whom
and in whose name tens of millions of people all over the world
would be horribly and sanctimoniously sacrificed, because they
got in the way of the rich
and the greedy. That process started soon after the Emperor Constantine
declared the Roman Empire to be 'Christian', and, through the
Council of Nicæa, neatly turned Jesus (to whom he had prayed
before his many successful battles) into King of Heaven and justification
of empire. Christos means 'anointed' - but Jesus was never
anointed, just and simply baptised by John the Baptist.
And that act had
a consequence which most people do not recognise: without Christianity
there would have been no body-hating Islam ('the way of peace'
which is probably better designated by the deeply unfashionable
that Jesus is reported to have said was original or new.
Apart from such non-Jewish preachers as Diogenes, Jewish
sects such as the Essenes carried variations on the same
message of humility, now so spectacularly ignored at a
time when arrogance, pride, vainglory, concupiscence
and wealthare set as life-goals. Even Jesus' hallmark
of peripatetic commensality was novel only in its non-monasticism,
for the small, monastic Essene sect had same-sex commensality
at its core. (Paul, of course, reversed this influence
by encouraging women to be active in the Christianity
that he developed.)
Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, of the École Biblique et
Archéologique Française in Jerusalem, has
stated that the only feature unique to Jesus is his alleged
divinity - a claim denied by all non-Christians! Thus
a learned Biblical scholar admits that the only justification
for Christianity as a religion (almost none of whose members
actually follow the teaching of Jesus) is its patronising
mythology so transparently imported from other cults.
Of the three Abrahamic
religions, by far the least murderous and most authentic has been
Judaism. And within unproselytising Judaism, most of what we call
the Old Testament might sanely be scrapped, leaving just the books
of Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus as sufficient guide to living
without the history, quasi-history and pseudo-history which claim
to justify the vengeful arrogance of modern Israël. Moreover,
Judaism has no promise of a pubescent-male heaven or paradise,
no hysterical condemnation of suicide. Christianity
has cheapened death through its tinsel 'salvation' - has cheapened
it by claiming to cheat it. Death has been rendered a terminal
failure; and suicide, far from a supremely dignified and noble
act, has become shameful, "a cry for help", an act of
despair or desperation, of selfishness. A
religion which cannot accommodate suicide is a religion of slavery
of Christianity and Islam is manifest in their shrill insistence
on a daddygod who is supposed to be paying attention to every
one of us every second of the time to consider our childish and
often nasty requests. Does that not say something about the unbelievable
egotism and arrogance of these two cultures, now re-entering into
dangerous conflict ? The example of the Prophet M'hamed, it should
be realised, has been perverted by Muslims every bit as much as
the example of the itinerant, moneyless - possibly composite -
Prophet Jesus. The great rag-bag of Islam, from Hadith to Wahabi
to mystical Sufi and Bektashi is a mass of interpretation, selection
and accretion. (It must be said, however, that Islam has rarely
been anti-Christian, whereas Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity
have waged continual jihad against Islam. This is why the ikonophobic
Protestant nations of Europe, especially Britain, were pro-Islamic
from the 16th century to the end of the 20th.)
"animist" Japanese Shinto, on the other hand, is grounded
in reality: one has to clap one's hands and shout to get the attention
of the rock-spirit or the spirit of the tree before performing
the appropriate ritual and making modest requests. This seems
eminently sane, if a little picturesque.
Of course any and
all religions attract the desperate, the feeble-minded, the cynical
(in the modern sense), the intolerant, the pious and the self-deluded
- which accounts for almost all of humankind.
become the very antithesis of the outlook of Antisthenes
and Diogenes. But Jesus himself almost certainly was not - although,
of course, he was tragically, pathetically obsessed with the ludicrous
idea life after death for humans (only), as is apparent even in
Cathars were latter-day
Christian Gnostics, influenced by dualistic Zoroastrianism and
Manichæanism, who denied the orthodox Christian dogma of
the unique godhead. They were the closest that Christianity ever
got to Sufism. Flourishing in the 11th to 13th centuries in south-west
France, especially in Quercy, the Albigeois, Pyrenees and Languedoc,
in Northern Italy and Bosnia, and in pockets elsewhere in France,
they considered all creation to be a (Manichæan) struggle
between Good and Evil: the world-we-know being the domain and
creation of Satan, and the unseen (Platonic) world being the insubstantial
realm of the Good God, who is without form or physical dimension
or attribute. They considered Jesus to be not so much divine as
an inspired human, and less a historical person than a concept,
a model of how to lead a good life in this Satanic Realm. To the
Cathars (and their Eastern counterparts the Bogomils) he was certainly
not the Son of God, nor a divine entity. This made their theology
refreshingly simple compared with that of the Catholic church.
They believed that
Satan had tricked 'pure spirits' from the ineffable realm of God
into fleeing to his palpable, evil world, where he trapped them
in prisons of flesh, ego and consciousness. But if these katharoi
or pure spirits had managed not to yield to the destructive temptations
of carnality, selfishness and perverted reason, and had "made
a good end", they would be released from their earthly and
hellish bondage and return to God as pure spirits re-uniting with
and re-dissolving in Pure Spirit. If they did not make a "good
end" to their temporal lives they would re-enter the cycle
of suffering which Satan had created for his pleasure. Thus they
believed that individuals had control over their own lives and
were not at the mercy of the whimsical and unpleasant (not to
say infantile) Catholic Godhead.
They taught that
there would be no Last Judgement, no Hell,
and no resurrection of the dead: the world would end when the
last of the Pure Spirits (or Angelic Souls) trapped in Satan's
(or Satanel's) material world would pass into the 'spiritual world'
from the material world. This process of disentanglement from
the snares of materiality, ego, power, hierarcy and materialism
would necessarily take a long time and involve the transmigration
of souls through various mammals before entering the body of one
who would become a perfectus or perfecta. It was
for this reason that Cathars were strict vegetarians, but could
eat fish and molluscs, because they did not penetrate each
other, as mammals do, to reproduce. Like Jews and Bektashis,
they did not believe that women - or followers of other religions
- or any mammals - were inherently inferior, and condemned the
blatant misogyny of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, just as
they were appalled at the worship of relics, the liturgical use
of Latin, and other instruments of power which were not successfully
challenged until the Reformation. They also translated the Bible
into the language of the people so that it could be read and discussed.
They rejected as
blasphemous the idea that God could come into the material world
through a virgin, and regarded the Mass, the ludicrous doctrine
of transubstantiation, and the newly-created cult of the Virgin
Mary as cynical inventions to glorify the clergy and their 'love
of great oblations'. Gleeful reports by inquisitors that they
spat on the crucifix are not necessarily false, because they rejected
as distasteful and blasphemous the whole quasi-cannibal Cult of
Crucifixion which took over Christianity at an early stage. In
this they were to a large extent supported by the Templars (soon
to be themselves suppressed) who were sympathetic to Islam, a
religion free of image-worship and (until the late 20th century)
clerics who were potentates.
thought that although Man was created by Satan/Lucifer as an instrument
in and of the material world, speech - the Power of the Word -
was the gift of God, the Logos which would enable the redemption
of Mankind through a simple, unhypocritical asceticism: the Good
Life. This did not require the amassing of goods or wealth, the
building and bedecking of churches, the buying of indulgences,
or the establishment of the totalitarian hierarchy which is unique
to the Catholic Church amongst world religions. Their meetings
were mostly in the open air, their prayers simple and their doctrines
simplistically clear: The truth (the Logos ) will make
you free; voce vita: we should practise what we preach.
What comes from flesh is flesh, and spirit or holiness comes only
from spirit and the spiritual realm. Of course truth is simply
unbearable, and if it is not unbearable it is not truth - but
the Cathars, being European, were not enlightened - or 'Cynical'
(in the philosophical sense) - enough to realise this!
Because they believed
that one should live by the work of one's own hands and not by
the work of others they were against all that Western Civilisation
now stands for. They specialised in such crafts as weaving and
cobbling as well as agriculture. But, like the early Christians
(Paul and his business-network, and the Protestant Huguenots (and
later the Quakers) who included a large proportion of textile-workers
- and who founded the Irish linen and lace industries), they were
very much into money and the interpenetrating obligations of trade.
Their connections with fellow-Manichæans in Lombardy and
with the Bogomils in Bosnia provided them with a network that
was highly profitable - so profitable that after the Cathars were
wiped out rumours persisted about their hoards of gold, a legend
which was transferred to the Incas and the imaginary El Dorado.
The Roman Catholic
church always had a highly ambiguous attitude to money. Usury
was condemned (until the reign of Pius IX in the 19th century)
while indulgences were sold in their millions. Cathars were condemned
for their 'avarice', yet bishops amassed huge sums through tithes
and other means, in order to build vainglorious (or in the case
of Albi, downright fascist-brutalist) cathedrals.
Though Cathars considered
the organised Catholic Church to be a vile Satanic institution,
along with the Old Testament, Mass, marriage, church burial, priesthood
and all hierarchy and everything organisational, they tended (perhaps
for pragmatic, logistical reasons) not to be aggressive or confrontational.
Their Sufic tolerance echoed that of contemporaneous Muslim Spain,
and, like the Moors, they respected the Jews. Rightly considering
the Catholic and Orthodox churches to be perverted heresies working
very hard against Jesus' message, they referred to themselves
as crestians or bons òmes (bonhommes) or
bons chrétiens (these occur even now as surnames in
France (as does Mauchrétien), while the word itself has
been debased to crétin). Our term Cathar
comes from Greek katharos meaning pure, untainted, and
it was not used at the time, just as the word Crusade was
not used at the time. Sympathetic outsiders talked not of chrétiens/crestians
but of Parfaits (Perfecti) - and a fine potter I know
in the Albigeois has the surname Perfetti.
History, of course,
is full of those (almost always men) with pretensions to Purity
- in our own time, the Taliban (talib = pure). The heterogeneous
and fragile nation-state of Pakistan means 'country of the pure'.
But as Diogenes kept on saying, belief and faith are inevitably
twinned with Hypocrisy.
democratic, the bons crestians elected their local leaders,
who could be female as well as male, and were termed Bishops.
They had one ritual only, the Consolamentum, through which
the Perfecti could introduce and initiate others into the Good
Life. This involved baptism, laying-on of hands, kissing the Gospels
and a symbolic explanation of the Lord's Prayer. There were few
Perfecti and the Consolamentum tended to be accepted only by those
who were near death and felt they could renounce Satan's Realm
at the last minute, for after it came the Endura, when
they were not supposed to eat, thus hastening the entry into God's
World by starvation. This was the 'Good End', dismissed by Catholics
Although the Consolation
was not 'a passport to Heaven', it was considered a big step on
the way there, ensuring that the Consoled would not endure another
reincarnation in this world. Cathars considered that a blessing,
whereas most people now, almost anywhere in the world, corrupted
in so many ways by orthodox Christian thinking, think of life
in this world as a 'gift' and - even - holy in itself.
Needless to say,
Cathars did not celebrate Christmas, Easter, the Assumption of
the Virgin Mary, St Patrick's Day or HallowE'en! Nor did they
permit oaths. Shaving was discouraged as well, and the male Perfects
(two-thirds of the total, only one fifth of whom were gentry)
beards often forked in the Syrian/Coptic/Irish style. This
contrasted with the Catholic monks, who were gentry and were tonsured
Sex was discouraged
since it created new souls for the Devil to dominate. St Augustine
was originally a Manichæan, and his doctrine of Holy Sex
was the enantiodromic opposite of the Manichæan: he taught
that sex should be performed only by two saved souls in order
to create another one to be saved from Original Sin. Cathar celibacy
was, in fact, an attraction at a time when the openly-hypocritical
Catholic clergy was sexually self-indulgent - from the illiterate
rustic priest to the corrupt cardinal with his mistresses. But
of course sexual abstinence rendered Cathars, like the Parsis
(adherents of another dualistic religion emanatiung from Iran),
fewer and fewer.
However, as René Weis showed in The Yellow Cross
(London, 2000) hypocrisy was as rife amongst Cathars as amongst
other sects and religions. Cathars were of course part of this
evil world and not of the 'Kingdom of Heaven'. At the bitter end,
certain Cathars masqueraded as Catholics - even as Catholic priests.
was successful only in certain - mostly lowland - areas of France:
between Montpellier and Agen (especially the Lauragais East of
Toulouse) but not in Guyenne; Quercy but not the Limousin or Auvergne;
the Albigeois but not so much in high Rouergue; Champagne but
not Picardy - and not in Provence.
The 12th and 13th
century monastic orders - Cistercians, Franciscans and the Cathar-exterminating
Dominicans - were founded at least partly in response to Cathar
puritan primitivism (though also because of dramatically-shifting
demography and economics, and a lack of priests in the burgeoning
towns). The Roman Catholic espousal of marriage as a sacrament
(in 1215) seems to be one response to Cathar doctrine: anything
which reeked of Manichæism must be removed or reversed.
Thus orthodox Christianity stood on its head to deny the heterodox.
This is a perennial feature of totalitarian religions.
in Geneva somewhat later might be seen as an inheritor. The destruction
of the Languedoc Cathars in the 'Albigensian Crusade' was sparked
by their moving towards the end of the 11th century from a "mitigated"
dualism which did not directly threaten the Catholic church and
the expanding (and increasingly-totalitarian) papacy to an "absolute"
dualism which was entirely at odds with Catholic doctrine which
was at this time being rapidly invented almost year on year to
attract the gullible, and make them ever more gullible until Luther
came along. The Wars of Religion in France after the Reformation
tended to be waged in exactly those areas where Catharism had
been so bloodily expunged in the 13th and 14th centuries.
When Pope Innocent
III was unexpectedly elected in 1198, the Catholic church was
in a parlous state. Jerusalem had just been taken back; the Second
Crusade had collapsed in ignominy; The Emperor Barbarossa had
drowned and the Moors had re-taken much of the North of Spain.
He had to do something, somewhere - and the excision of the "cancer
within" seemed the most achievable target. As a result, South-West
France was caught in the pincers of a desperate Rome (to whose
very gates Lombardic Catharism had spread) and a greedy Paris.
The land-greedy barons of the dismal North of France viewed with
delirious delight the prospect of the subjugation and annexation
of a wealthy and exotic Mediterranean culture, and the result
was the origin of disastrous modern French 'policies of assimilation'.
Paris has never let go of its first colonial prize, though it
was forced to depart from a similar annexation in Algeria.
It was after the
'Albigensian Crusade' failed to excise the 'cancer' completely
that Pope Innocent III instituted the 'Holy Inquisition' under
his direct control and administered by one of the mendicant orders
he had sanctioned: the Dominicans. It was their appalling and
successful reign of terror which was the model for subsequent
European dictatorships, culminating in that of Stalin, and exported
to inspire other Satanic beings such as Mao Dzhe-Dong, Pol-Pot
and Kim Il Sung. It was the Inquisition which wiped out Catharism
- not only in France but in Northern Spain also (asylum for Cathar
refugees), where the Moorish hegemony had bequeathed, just for
a while, an extremely tolerant non-Islamic society. The symbol
of its demise was the fall of the 'impregnable' Safe Mountain
in the Pyrenees, Mont Ségur. Subsequently, Catharism
was erroneously viewed as a kind of Occitanian nationalism, somehow
intertwined with Troubadours and Courtly Love.
It was relatively
easy to find out if someone was a practising Cathar or not: one
simply offered him or her red meat. If it was refused or eaten
with anything less than gusto, they were condemned and usually
tortured. Their 'confessions' included, of course, the fantasies
of the torturers, as are all confessions extracted in this way:
something that the Homeland Security "agencies" and
indeed many politicians do not seem to have grasped.
From the Cathar
point of view, the Devil has won and his reign is supreme in a
world teeming with his slaves. The Platonic-Manichæan world
of Perfection seems like a childish fairytale.
Diogenes, of course,
dismissing all claptrap, would have said there was only one world
- a bad one - and no possibility of redemption or even improvement.
History bears him out, for all improvement is not only merely
material, but enslaving and illusory. Nevertheless, the older
I get the more inclined I become towards a Manichæan world-view...
yet another reworking of a third-century-BC poem
by Callimachus of Cyrene
Old points of view
expressed anew are crap.
Old sentiments recycled yet again,
banalities of love exposed like wounds in films,
are so much pap.
My writing's much too dissident to win a prize,
my thoughts don't come processed-flaccid from the system.
What majorities desire I just despise.
A CRIMINAL SHORTCOMING
One of the apparent results of evolved and superior human consciousness
is the idea that death is A Bad Thing - and thus that life is
inherently good. This seems even to be the basis, the sine
qua non of the Abrahamic religions, especially the two militantly-proselytising
ones, which promise immortality as vague as it is infantile.
ludicrous idea that non-being is essentially evil was enunciated
to Europe by St Augustine. From this came the anathema on suicide,
shared, of course, by the Humanists, who are Christians with a
different, sterilised mumbo-jumbo.
imperative to save life at all costs (except, of course, in war
whose purpose is annihilation of the enemy and its non-combatant
population) has resulted in hideous hypocrisies, among them the
hypocrisy of International
Aid, which James
Shikwati compares with internet malware.
I received a communication from Médecins sans Frontières
(Doctors Unconstrained), informing me that they had 'saved' (note
the religious overtone) some twenty-eight thousand starving children
in Northern Burkina Faso.
them for what ? So that they will grow up on a poor diet in one
of the poorest and most deprived countries in the world, probably
drift from the encroaching Sahara to the filthy slums of the capital
city, there to breed more children in misery, disease and despair
? For the 'aid' programmes of the rich countries ensure that the
general population of Burkina Faso (and all 'developing' countries)
remains helpless clients without any access to the country's wealth
- even if there were any wealth in that country outside its kickback-rich
in any case, I am assured by another communication that there
will be no coral reefs left in fifty years' time - and no fish
in the seas, either. And the whole of Burkina Faso will be a desert
without a desert's minimal but hardy fauna. And its population
will have tried to escape to the North or the South, where they
will be interned in Refugee Camps until they die. Or sent back
to languish in the violent slums of Ouagadougou.
is the future that MsF is bestowing on the children whom they
'save'. 'The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.' And it is increasingly evident that all roads lead to Hell.
is the banality of good.
does this do-gooder back-to-frontism compare with the random murder
employed by many 'terrorist' organisations ? Rather as years of
being a thinking vegetable in hospital compares with an easeful
death, or as a lingering non-life in the limbo of Death Row
compares with a rapid execution.
is an attempt to communicate
what we haven't the words
or the ability
or the insight
or the guts
When it fails (which is almost always)
it is merely literature.
A comment by a reader:
spirit has itself become mechanical in its pursuit of destruction.
Through mechanisation, we have lost any claim to vitality. We
are unthinking automata - while real machines, lacking vindictiveness
and vengeance (not to mention horribly misplaced compassion) are
'kinder' than we are.
of the "great" religions are littered with massacres,
slavery and hatred of the earth, and no consideration for non-human
life, but plenty of incredible cruelty in general. Forget the
dogma. Consider the real behaviour. The whole Abrahamic thing
has been one huge necrophiliac festival of narcissism and sadism,
as are most human endeavors, regardless of idealistic blabber.
(I guess that makes it deeply personal.)
As I have
seen it practised, religion is just a feel-good delusion. It feels
good to think yourself absolutely right about everything in a
'holy' context. Even atheists seem to parade the same arrogance
as the religious. In their case it is harsh realism and ruthless
necessity that give them their 'holiness'. The Christians had
their vile Crusades, then the Inquisition. The 1500s to 1900 gave
us the great Christian genocides and pogroms. The 20th century
gave us the great atheist genocides. Islam is now going through
its Inquisition phase. Hindus and Buddhists are starting to get
in on the act. So now it's a mixed bunch killing damned near everything
on the planet.
turned suicide from a brave act of honour or awareness to a reviled
act of despair. Islam has now seen these two opposing perceptions
unite in the phenomenon of the suicide-bomber.
I dare any
of you who read this to think about how merciful and kind and
'liberal' you are as you purchase goods probably made with toxic
ingredients by someone in slave conditions, ripped off, beaten,
discarded after injuries, etc. Know-it-alls, both religious and
atheist, should try a little contemplation, a little self-examination
as you bite into the flesh of a young animal, ripped away from
its grieving mother whose milk you drink, prodded, transported,
beaten, stunned or slit or skinned alive, depending on your 'faith'.
of the powerless is the gauge of our quality, our rare mercy.
Religions are the collective masks of the biopathic species: every
-ism from Mithraism to Atheism.