Showing posts with label conspiracies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conspiracies. Show all posts

07 July 2016

Two Can Keep A Secret...


by Eve Fisher

"Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead." - proverb
Fireworks by Samericnick on Wikipedia
But don't count on it.  Even if one of them is dead, then the living person is STILL going to have to go blab to somebody.  A rock, if nothing else.  And sometimes a secret is just too darned hard to keep. For example, for the last month, I've been keeping the great deep dark secret of a surprise 70th birthday party for my husband, Allan, which was pulled off by Michael and Reina (bless you, guys!).  During this month, I have almost blown the whole damn secret at least five times, because someone unexpected said yes! or because the whole place is being cleaned up (!) or because Allan was wondering what we ought to do for his birthday.  Or the Fourth.  Which is the same thing.  Given more time, I would have cracked. Someone would have cracked.  Whew.  Thank God we made it...

This is why I don't believe in conspiracy theories that require absolute total silence on the part of everyone involved.  At least not without death threats that will actually be carried out.  (I understand the Mafia has managed to pull this off at times.)  This means that anything involving aliens, fake moon landings, "false flag" shootings/bombings/etc., Batboy, the Illuminati, UN internment camps, Jesus as a psychedelic mushroom, and any end of the world scenarios involving secret knowledge passed down ancient astronauts / gods (especially aquatic aliens who teach humanity how to grow land crops) are all off the table, at least as far as I'm concerned.

And especially in this day and age.  I grew up in a world where we all knew that J. Edgar Hoover KNEW ALL, Nixon had an enemies list (Hunter S. Thompson, upon finding out that he wasn't on it, said, "Next time, I'll BE there."), and the FBI was everywhere.  And that was before the Patriot Act and the NSA.  (BTW, if you're Instagramming your food in between selfie-ing your every breath, and letting everyone know your constant whereabouts on Facebook, don't tell me you're worried about your privacy.)  Privacy?  Secrets? Don't make me laugh.

On the other hand, the ancient world was pretty good at it.

Back in the ancient world, the Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation and religious rites that lasted over two thousand years - from at least 1500 BCE to 396 CE. And no one still knows exactly what happened at them. The initiates were sworn to secrecy, and they apparently kept it.  (For one thing - I told you! - the penalty for revealing the mysteries was death, and people really were executed:  In the 5th century BCE a man named Diagoras "the atheist" had to flee for his life for revealing too much of the mysteries.)  Little hints got out here and there, but not a lot.  Not the big stuff.

Ninnion Tablet, Wikipedia,
copyright by Marsyas
We have no idea how many people were initiates, but everyone who was anyone was, including Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Pisistratus, etc.  We also know that the mysteries centered around the worship of Demeter, the Goddess of Harvest and Agriculture, and Persephone, Demeter's daughter by Zeus, who was stolen by the Hades, the God of Death.  In Greek mythology, that theft/rape brought winter and death to the world as a whole:  but the Eleusinian Mysteries defied death and brought new life to the world.  According to Joshua K. Mark (Eleusinian Mysteries) "The mysteries celebrated the story of Demeter and Persephone but, as the initiated were sworn to secrecy on pain of death as to the details of the ritual, we do not know what form this celebration took. We do know, though, that those who participated in the mysteries were forever changed for the better and that they no longer feared death."

Plato (4th century BCE) wrote, "our mysteries had a very real meaning: he that has been purified and initiated shall dwell with the gods" (69:d, F.J. Church trans).
BTW, Plato was the first who argued that everyone had an immortal soul.  In case no one ever told you, a great deal of Christian theology about the soul and the afterlife is actually based on Plato, especially Phaedo.  In the same way, many of our ideas about true love are based on Plato's Symposium.  If you haven't read either before, check them out sometime.  
Cicero the Roman wrote around the mid-1st century BCE, "Nothing is higher than these mysteries...they have not only shown us how to live joyfully but they have taught us how to die with a better hope."

And Plutarch, writing around 100 CE, said "because of those sacred and faithful promises given in the mysteries...we hold it firmly for an undoubted truth that our soul is incorruptible and immortal. Let us behave ourselves accordingly... When a man dies he is like those who are initiated into the mysteries. Our whole life is a journey by tortuous ways without outlet. At the moment of qutting it come terrors, shuddering fear, amazement. Then a light that moves to meet you, pure meadows that receive you, songs and dances and holy apparitions" (Hamilton, 179).

Demeter receiving an offering from
Metanira, Queen of Eleusis
So what did they actually do in these mysteries?  Well, we really don't know.  Do not be fooled by websites who claim to have the truth:  THEY DON'T.

What we do know is that there were the Lesser Mysteries and the Greater Mysteries.  The Lesser Mysteries took place around the January or February full moon and involved purification and sacrifice.

After that, the initiate was deemed worthy to attend the Greater Mysteries in September/ October (again, depending on the moon).  The ten days of ritual began publicly:  a procession from the Athenian cemetery (no symbology there...) to Eleusis, complete with branches, chanting, and, at one point, ritual dirty jokes because (according to the original myth) an old woman named Baubo [or Iambe, and don't ask me why] cracked jokes and made Demeter smile even with her daughter in Hades.

Then came an all-night vigil, where everyone drank a certain potion - kykeon - that may or may not have contained psychotropic herbs.  Then into the Great Hall, where the Mysteries were unfolded. After that, we don't know.  There were dromena ("things done"), deiknumena ("things shown"), and legomena ("things said").  But what were those things?  There was a sacred casket.  There was a "triune" wheat sheaf.  There was a presentation.  Everything revolved around the Demeter/ Persephone/ Hades myth, which basically revolved around the changing seasons. But that's really all we know.  The secrets were kept.  Seriously.

Afterwards - one hell of an all-night feast, with dancing, merriment, undoubtedly more alcohol, perhaps more potions, a bull sacrifice, and some time the next day an exhausted, satisfied, perhaps hung-over but happy crew, revitalized and resworn, went home.

For two thousand years, this ritual was reenacted and the secret was kept.  We could probably learn something from that.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Allan was totally surprised at his birthday party, and a great time was had by all!  Whew.

26 March 2015

A Little Religious Conspiracy Theory


by Eve Fisher

As you hopefully know by now, I love a good conspiracy theory.  And some events generate lots of them.  A very early event that has not yet stopped generating conspiracy theories is, of course, the death of Jesus, and since Palm Sunday is the 29th and Easter comes next, I thought it would be a good time to review some of most interesting conspiracy theories.  If nothing else, just to prove that it's not just politics that brings out the crazy...

First of all, there were at least three real conspiracies that surrounded Jesus:
  • The first one in (among other places) Matthew 26:14-16, where the chief priests paid Judas to betray Jesus so they could have him executed, quickly and relatively quietly, before the Passover.  
  • The second, of course, was the show trial before first Caiaphas and then Pilate, complete with manufactured witnesses and a lot of fake weeping, wailing and tearing of clothes in horror.
  • The third in Matthew 28:11-15, after the finding of the empty tomb:  "Now while they [the disciples] were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened.  After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”  So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day."  
    • BTW that "keep you out of trouble" part was VERY important, because Roman guards who lost prisoners were killed in their stead.  
But enough of reality, let's get on with the crazy:
"When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage & Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent 2 of his disciples & said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, & immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it & bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away & found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; & they allowed them to take it. Mark l1:1-6
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. Luke 22:7-13
The above  two passages have been used repeatedly to prove that there was a plot, a conspiracy, and Jesus was in on it and/or was the mastermind. But what kind of plot?  What kind of conspiracy? Folks, there are a lot of them:

(1) That Jesus would be replaced by his twin, or doppelganger, who would die on the cross for him so that he could appear to be resurrected and, thus, start a whole new religion. Or get out of town later. Both ideas have been used. The most likely candidate?  Thomas, who was known as "the Twin" (Didymas), which certainly puts a whole new spin on Doubting Thomas, doesn't it?

(2) Another theory says that these 2 messages - the colt and the guy with the pitcher of water - were coded messages, letting the conspirators know that the time was at hand for a major magic act to take place.  This conspiracy theory breaks down a couple of ways:
  • One version says that the plan was for Jesus to be arrested, tried, convicted, crucified and drugged with that vinegar on a stick (John 19:28).  He was then taken down - comatose but still alive - nursed back to health, appeared to the disciples, who spread the story of his resurrection while he went off to Tibet to become a monk in the Himalayas. 
  • Another version was given in the 1960's book "The Passover Plot", where they said that everything was going according to the above plan BUT then came some stupid soldier with a spear.  For some reason, he hadn't been bribed, and he killed a living Jesus on the cross by mistake.  And then the disciples had to make up a story and stick to it.  Hence, John 19 & 20, Luke 23 & 24, etc.  
  • Dorothy Sayers in her "The Man Born to be King" says that it was a code, a conspiracy, but it was set up by the Zealots:  they offered Jesus a choice between a horse and a colt, and if he took the horse, they'd follow him in an uprising against Rome.  If he took the colt, he was on his own.  They'd find another leader.  He took the colt, and death was the result.  BUT Judas didn't know the details, and he thought that by taking the colt, Jesus had turned political, and so Judas turned him in for being less holy than Judas wanted/needed him to be.  Actually, I kind of like this one - at least it makes sense in the political climate of the time, and it gives Judas a reason to betray Jesus.
(3)  Jesus was a myth.  Variations:
  • D. M. Murdock, in her book "The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold," says that Christianity was invented by a variety of secret societies and mystery religions to unify the Roman Empire under one state religion.  Without, of course, bothering to figure out WHY the Roman Empire needed one state religion and ignoring the fact that it already had a form of it in Rome's ready worship of any new god that came along, not to mention the Emperor Cultus...  Let's just say that this is the kind of book that makes historians like me go bang their head against a wall over and over again...
  • Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Holy Grail - ad infinitum, ad nauseum...
  • My personal favorite of all conspiracy theories is in an obscure book from the 1970's, "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross" by John Marco Allegro.  According to Allegro, Jesus was actually a psychedelic mushroom.  Or hallucinations resulting from taking psychedelic mushrooms.  And, in case you're wondering, yes, I absolutely do believe that psychedelic mushrooms were indeed consumed in the conception and writing of that book...
Why do people come up with these things?  Or believe them?  Well, there's a lot of reasons.  But I think the main reason is simple:  conspiracy theorists feel like members of an elite club or cult, in which they are in on the "real" truth.  People love to be in on a secret - it makes us feel like we belong, like we're knowledgeable, like we're superior.  Nobody can fool us.  We're in control, because we're in the know, whether it's about 9/11 or Roswell or Bigfoot or a death in Judea 2000 years ago.

Coming soon - who killed Chaucer?