- Religion and Philosophy
Reincarnation Outlawed by Emperor Justinian?
To be clear, I remain hungry for truth. Science offers some and so does religion. In many respects, these are only "relative truths," not absolutes. Arguably, absolute "truth" does not exist in the physical realm. I have studied electronics, astronomy, astrophysics, computer science, calculus, geology, anthropology, archaeology, Christianity, Judaism, the Kabbalah, Buddhism, Taoism and Scientology. Each offers its own unique insights. Christianity stands as perhaps the most powerful force. Much of that force, however, has been crippled by dogma and politics formed so long ago that most members today are ignorant of the forces of darkness woven within the light. Even with one third the Earth's population, Christianity is currently only a shadow of its full potential.
Jesus told his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12 KJV). There are many hidden truths he revealed to his closest followers, yet some things even they were not yet ready for. And many things Jesus taught more openly have been forgotten by the Church, buried in its past.
The sixth century was a turbulent time for Europe, for the empire and for the Church. It is hard to find a time in history when there was not some turbulence, but the sixth century held a critical turning point in the relatively young Christian church. That church was no longer a cult. It was a well-established religion, and the power it held attracted those who lusted after power.
An eye opening treatise by English clergy in 1910 regarding the beginnings of religious doubt.
Changes in Christianity during this period were the result of a popularity contest between monophysitism (a belief that Jesus has only one nature, divine-human, a belief which was popular amongst the people), and Nestorianism (a belief that Jesus has a dual nature, divine + human). While this may seem to be splitting hairs, it was powerful enough motivation to have an emperor depose a sitting pope, install another (Vigilius), and later, when Vigilius would not play ball, have the new Pope remain under arrest until he complied. Pope Vigilius spent 8 years of confinement in Byzantium, and died not long after he acceded to Justinian's demands.
Was he murdered by Justinian? We may never answer that question.
Vigilius had, among other things, refused to sign the degree condemning the teachings of distinguished early church father, Origen Adamantius (c.185 – c.254 AD). Justinian (483 – 565 AD) presided over the ecumenical council because Vigilius had refused to participate. The result of that council was a death knell for religious freedom.
"If anyone asserts the fabulous preexistence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema" (The Anathemas against Origen, attached to the decrees of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, A.D. 545, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2d ser., 14:318).
A scientist's take on a possible source for Noah's Flood -- the flooding of the Black Sea basin c.5600 BC.
A part of truth died on that day. No one was allowed to think of Christianity except by way of the new standard. To do so was punishable by death. Heretics were burned at the stake or hung. Centuries later, the Cathars were murdered in a wholesale slaughter. The Church had become based on ego rather than on divine wisdom. The Church was committing crimes against humanity in the name of their false doctrine.
But we can forgive them. God, in His wisdom, knew ego would get the upper hand for awhile. Much later, reason would get the upper hand, and, though ego would persist, a democratizing effect would ameliorate ego's impact. Such would give us the opportunity to reclaim truth.
Much earlier, when Emperor Constantine I (c272 – 337 AD) had set Christianity as a state religion, ecumenical councils had established the practice of determining political policies as well as accepted doctrine. At times, there seemed to be more political intrigue than philosophically based opinion. Changes in the Church seemed driven more by secular concerns than divine guidance. But I can't help but think there was guidance of a sort in even that turn of events.
True faith is not based on doctrine, but on the conviction that a higher power is interested in our wellbeing. That higher power must give us the ability to make the wrong decisions, because the escape from this mortal realm requires that we choose the righteous path on our own. It can't be forced upon us. If we cling to the wrong ideas and arrogantly refuse to look any further, then we are not yet ready for the awakening.
Like a computer when it lifts itself up by its own bootstraps (it "boots" up, initializing the system), the individual needs to take full responsibility for their condition and lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. The faith that is required for such a "self-boot" is none other than perfect confidence. Confidence which is at 99.9999999% is as good as none at all in the realm of spirit and creation, because imperfect confidence is tainted with a touch of doubt. Achieving such perfect confidence requires that we let go of ego completely. This is the attainment of perfect humility.
How can truth become perverted?
It's easy when the selfish see an opportunity to gain power by hijacking a group with many followers. It is easy when many of the members of the group favor a doctrine that feeds their self-importance rather than their souls. Even today, many of the "faithful" find it too easy to practice forcing their false doctrine on others because what they've been taught is simple to understand and has enough truth in it to be seductive. The real path to truth requires letting go of recently accepted truths, and repetitively letting go until they've gained the perfect humility to take the final step. This is the idea of the "right hand" not letting the "left hand" know what it does. You sort of sneak up on ego in order to vanquish it.
Holding onto any ideology feeds ego. Yet, keeping an ideology strong allowed the Church to persist through turbulent, Medieval times. Perhaps it was a necessary "evil."
Is Reincarnation a Doctrine Dangerous to Tyrants?
With reincarnation, a citizen of your empire will not necessarily remain a citizen. The mortal identity will die, it is true, but the immortal, true self may be born into lands beyond your borders. Possession equals control. Reincarnation means a lack of possession. Reincarnation is compatible with the Nestorian point-of-view of a dual nature for Jesus. Genesis talks of this dual nature for all of us — the spiritual (Genesis 1:26) and the physical (Genesis 2:7). And Jesus had to remind his enemies that "ye are gods," affirming the divinity of us all. What tyrant would feel comfortable with such a belief?
If instead, each citizen thinks that they have only one life, you possess them because you possess their body. And if your church controls the salvation of a poorly-defined "soul," with Jesus far above them, you have control of everything else.
Were these concerns part of Justinian's motivation? Too bad we cannot interview him. And the reincarnated Justinian will likely not remember such details. It's all too possible he's a beer-guzzling sanitation engineer in a mid-sized city, more concerned with the next sports game than the meaning of life. But don't tell him he used to be emperor. His ego is in enough trouble.
Jesus talked of reincarnation. Many Christians do not believe this. Some, rather simplistically, point out that the word, "reincarnation," is not in the Bible. While that is true, Shakespeare's wisdom comes to mind, that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. It's still a rose, even if we don't call it one. Jesus also talks about karma, though he describes it as dying by the sword by which one has lived, or reaping what one has sown.
Faith is a powerful tool, but "faith in a lie" is really only an oxymoron. Such is an impossibility. What some people call "faith" is really only "belief." And belief in a lie does not make it true, no matter how many believe it.
Truth and wisdom require work. If you're hungry for them, it's easy to stay motivated and dissatisfied with shallow, unfulfilling interpretation. Humility allows that hunger. Some Christians feel they have all they need, so they never look beyond their current worldview.
God Protected the Future of Civilization
When God brought about the Flood, he was protecting the future of civilization. This broad and ubiquitous institution we currently enjoy is divinely important, because only through it can we have the luxury of time to discuss and study these important matters. Yet, despite having civilization, it has taken nearly fifteen hundred years to come back to truth after Justinian's derailment. The environment is now ripe for plucking the fruit of wisdom from the tree of life, and for washing away the poison of the Forbidden Fruit. We begin to do that by becoming hungry for that wisdom.
We've had the Age of Reason and it has helped us to become aware of so many things. Under the protection of science, we were able to question the grip of the Church on spiritual matters. We are in a delicate balance between the freedom to search for truth, and the restrictions of a new regime which might want to outlaw such freedoms. How many will take this opportunity? Can we ensure the continued freedom to search, or will the pendulum swing too far in the other direction, back toward the iron grip of religious dogma? The polarization began years ago, and may now be approaching its climax. I can only hope that reason and faith will find the right path to become partners.
Polarization is a great distraction, attracting ego to one ideological extreme or another. On one side, we have "false reason" represented by Richard Dawkins and similar skeptics. On the other side, we have "false faith" represented by Young Earth Creationists and similar believers. Both sides are deadly serious, fighting for their own brand of righteousness against a perceived evil. But both sides are wrong.
Instead of fighting, the more sane of us merely remain neutral and let the storm die down on its own. We inject our words of calm and balance to retain sanity. In this universe, there is room enough for the truth of electrons orbiting neutrons and protons along with the truth of immortal spirit, not yet awake enough to remember, being born repeatedly in one body after another, increasing its opportunities to awaken to God. Science and religion may be as different as oil and vinegar, but they can make a wonderful salad dressing. And this life? Some salad!
Remain hungry for truth.