Myth building

Hi everybody,

How do human beings become myths and legends? How do human experiences become enhanced with the supernatural and divine? How does a social phenomenon become so deeply rooted in a tradition that it rules the thoughts of a group of people?

I believe there are certain people or certain attributes that have always assisted the development of myths and legends. To my mind Jesus of Nazareth was such a person with such attributes, someone bound to become a legend. Perhaps Saul of Tarsus aided him in gaining this status…

In the unquiet times of the Roman occupation of Israel, the national pride of the Jews was hurt (Parallels to the occupation of Iraq are apparent). From the north, in Galilee, a large number of uprisings were instigated - some say up to sixty. All failed miserably in the face of the Roman legions who were sent to punish the Galileans.

Anybody who was remotely a public figure had to have an opinion - there were a number of varying groups. The very pious went off into the desert and prayed for God to send the Messiah, some progressive pious groups started a penance movement, demanding strictest adherence to the Torah, even to the point of doing more than the Law required. Some of these took to baptism as a sign of remorse and a new start. Prominent among these was John the Baptist, who also criticised the appointed Governor and was beheaded.

The local authorities were more concerned with keeping the peace and guaranteeing maintenance of the temple cult. After all, many of them earned their keep (and more besides) from the people who were driven into the temple by the verious pious movements, rquiring of them that they sacrifice for their sins. The Priests, who were in general from the jewish aristocracy, were said to be looking after themselves above all else.

A young man who had followed John the Baptist picked up the line of his predecesor after he had been captured and developed his own form of preaching. He was a healer and a carpenter who had obviously had some private tuition in the jewish law. He opposed uprisings but was in favour of resistence, he rejected the kind of progressive piety that drove people into the temple, but was a devout Jew who obeyed the law. He knew himself to have been sent by God, but he was relectant to allow the term “Messiah” to be used.

He preached a resistance by means of returning to the words of the Torah, by means of a sincere and frank religiousness, by doing good to the oppressors, praying for them and helping them. By this he turned the tables, made the oppressor unsure and insecure. Jesus told people to accept the punishment that the Romans distributed, and to give more than was required. In this way they were to accentuate the injustice done and build up a morale fibre within the population. The social core of Israel was to be made indestructable - a resistance that no occupying forces could break.

Indeed, the greatest dangers came not from the Occupiers, but their bootlickers. Not the soldiers were so much a threat as the priests and aristocracy who were willing to sacrifice anyone to make sure that Herod’s temple survived. That was why Jesus opposed the temple and called the Priests a pack of thieves, that was why he drove the moneylenders out of the temple and consequently sealed his fate. He saw the authorities as the biggest threat to his people - increasing taxes, demanding religious compliance, looking only for their own profit whilst praising themselves as being generous and pious.

Nobody was suprised that Jesus was arrested, but it came the way it had to come: Betrayed by one oof his own. He knew it would be betrayal that would bring him down from the start. Either because he was not obedient to customs, because he was not pious enough, because he didn’t toe the theological line, or because he wasn’t militant enough - which seems to be the reason Judas betrayed him. Jesus was unique enough to have more enemies than were good for him. He was unique, because his opposition to Rome was as effective as it was revolutionary.

Jesus personifies the “suffering servant” from Isaiah 53 in this way and that was probably the way his followers came to see him. In the 50 days after the crucifixion, especially because of strange occurences around his death and the empty tomb, his followers grew in the assurance that God had “redeemed” his life from the grave, as Psalm 49 and others declare.

Jesus became bigger than he ever had been whilst alive - and started a movement in motion that he hardly foresaw. There had been no doubt that God was with him, it would take a little while for people to see God through him, and another while before he became the incarnate God. Paul probably aided this development unwittingly by recognising the fact that in his mission to the gentiles, the Carpenter from Nazareth wasn’t going to be as effective as the Son of God.

Was this all manipulation? No, it just shows how things can become a self-runner.

Was the church built on deceit? No, the people probably genuinely believed the things they wrote - not in the literal sense in which we tend to read things, but in the sense of telling a story as best you can.

Can we believe in Jesus today? I believe in Jesus as the personification of what I deem to be a divine principal: Selfless Love, Agape as Paul calls it. I believe that he was right and that he had to die to prove it, and that he was willing to sacrifice himself so that it would happen. People who have followed his example have changed the world - even if they weren’t all as well known as Ghandi.

Now there’s a package for you! I hope it wasn’t too much and I’ll stop here and now before people protest.



Bob, this is a very good theory. I especially like how it can produces a very realistic plausibility of a righteous man that is deified for this very fact. To a degree, this theory has been expressed in the Bulgakov’s novel: “The Master and Margarita” where Jesus is deified by some, villanized by others, and misunderstood by most so that the rumors surrounding this inconsequential man grow into mythological proportions.

It is an interesting read–especially if you enjoy fantasy and religion. :smiley:

Hi guys,

Just curious, but is the development of myth the consequence of need irrespective of the personage(s) involved? Does myth and the mythological icons develop because of unmet needs generated by social chaos?

Given that Judea was certainly in social ferment, was Jesus of Nazareth the only possible choice of visionary? Could it possibly have been, say, Sally Jones? Is ‘christos’ simply the result of Jesus of Nazareth being the first visionary noticed in a time of social upheaval? Could the same be said of Muhammed? Of Gandhi?

Is it the person of vision or the social conditions that prompt the making of myth?

I sometimes wonder if there are visionaries who were little noticed only because they were second in line…


Hi Guys,

Jesus was the Prophet on which divine inspiration was seen to rest. In his life and death, he gave the Christos, the attribute of divine Wisdom, a physical existence and brought the eternal sacrifice of selfless love. It is by Faith that we grasp this truth and by our lives that we proclaim the Good News.

It is a mystical faith, grounded in the person of Jesus bar Josef, but by nature metaphysical. Its expression in life is by means of the believer’s works of compassion and mercy, which are the manifestation of Agape, the Love of God. The ‘holiness’ of the Followers of Christ is, by definition, their usefulness as bearers of this love for the world.

Christians, like Christ, are vessels who transport the message of salvation in their own lives. The ancient prophets bore a message, saying that Pottery that refuses to do what the Potter made it for is useless and likely to be rejected. This principle still applies.

The fact that Jesus was the Christos has surely to do with the fact that he dedicated himself to this task. In our day, however, we need more ‘Sons of God,’ or more Christs to bear the message of salvation – and it could be you or me.

I think Myths are a question of timing, depending on whether the ‘time is ripe’ (something that scripture continually refers to) and whether the Redeemer is obedient to his calling


Hi Bob,

Uhhh, I don’t think it could be me. I haven’t the courage to die for mankind, and besides, I have an aversion thing with crosses. :stuck_out_tongue:


Nice point Bob - but tell me, how is it any different in principle from my ideas about primitive tribal storycultures exaggerating the mundane deeds of their forefathers into full-blown Pantheons…? - Can I take this thread as an acknowledgement of the plausability of my invented God…?

[size=75][edit - sorry Bob - I was in spoilt brat mode last night][/size]

Hi Bob:

Through the influence of experts pertaining to each situation. Take for instance one girl who went on a spree and went to bed with three guys. By chance they happen to meet and discuss their encounters. Each begins spicing it up to appear the better lover with the quip that if she goes to bed with you she’ll do anyone.

Now ten more guys listen in and no one wants to appear as being someone that even she wouldn’t want to have sex with so gradually they start to add their expertise describing a certain double clutch trick she knows which others agree with not wanting to appear as though she withheld this experience from them.

At the end of the night she is at least a legend if not officially having attained mythical status.

Experts find it impossible to admit that they do not know so each adds their two cents gradually destroying any reality pertaining to the incident in question

Their influence goes beyond just each other since other people believe they know what they are talking about and find it safe to agree with the opinions of experts rather than appearing ignorant.

Take for instance the infamous I, Libertine affair. If the experts had not become familiar with the text of this diabolical book the innocent could have been exposed and the intellectuals denied the in depth discussions on its startling content. In fact, if the experts had not become so concerned and added their expertise, the scandal would not have reached such international notoriety.

It doesn’t matter if the author was Frederick R. Ewing who was best known for his BBC broadcasts on 18th century erotica, some things should not be said or at least spoken of only by experts who can guide us in these things after they describe how carefully they’ve studied the text.

So the result is that the experts created another legend since the book having been banned in several places became harder to obtain.

As always Bob, your excellent posts are excellent reads. I’d like to think of Ghandi being the last single individual to attempt societal peace through pacifism and understanding. In this sense, Ghandi was the last person to personify the REAL Christ-image. I sometimes wondered, if only he made some prophecies, performed a few miracles, and succeeded in achieving peace between so many different cultures and creeds, perhaps he would be worshipped…

As always, a man is but a man.

Hi Guys,
I don’t believe that people ‘invented’ God. Of course they did use available imagery to come up with ideas, explanations or theories to describe the sentience or the mystery of existence. What lies at the base of these explanations isn’t reducible to empirical factual knowledge, nor is it pure fabricated fantasy. Myth is a story with a timeless relevance. People can identify with it over millennia, because it has the basic requirement to remain inspirational.

The comparison with modern day fantasy hobbles because of the fact that such stories are trivial. This isn’t triviality blown out of proportion; it is more discovery than invention. A discovery that proceeded over centuries and the Myth grew with it. But all the time, it was treated with reverence. Nobody was allowed to demean the message (Thou shalt not take my name in vain).

Another aspect is the fact that people made experiences that endorsed the Myth. These experiences are made even today – by varying cultures. At the same time, it isn’t a question of equating the empirical factual knowledge of one source with another, but understanding the commonality of religious experience.

What is important is that not the man is worshipped, but the divine principle behind him. Not Jesus bar Josef, but Christos Jesus, should be worshipped. The Christos, like Wisdom, is an attribute or identity of God that finds access to the Jew, Jesus. His obedience is what gives him the status of a “Son of God”. It is his role in the cosmic sacrifice that makes him unique, just as the sacrifice is unique (so no worries JT).

The disciples are aware that suffering in its diverse meanings is what life is about. Suffering God is where salvation and hope transpires, suffering evil is to suffer in a bad sense, to suffer sadly or be in a bad plight. To be a vessel for the Gospel means to suffer in both ways, but it is the Way of righteousness.


Bob wrote

Yes, it would seem this is one of the first steps of the creation of Christendom. Experience devolves into inspiration. People want to “do” and begin worrying about what others are “doing”. This lack of humility denies the importance of the experience and the realization that you cannot “do”.

Yes, the essence of Christianity becomes forgotten and the myth having devolved into Christendom is supported. In this way its essence is rejected by the world as it replaces it with its own interpretation. The effect is to reject the living and worship the dead.

Experience is one thing and interpretation is another. As usual, once the experts get a hold of it, unless one is both savvy and lucky, it will lose its significance.

It is his existence as “I Am” that makes him unique. It is something we only have in potential Obedience only has value objectively when one has the choice. Does a slave’s obedience in life give him status of “son of God” by definition?

In life and for the good of society, such distinctions can be drawn. However, in the Christian sense which deals with the human essence and is beyond the confines of society, there are two kinds of suffering: mechanical and conscious. The Crucifixion itself was an incident of conscious suffering which is what gives it its living significance.

Part of the experience of conscious suffering is the revelation of how much one loves their mechanical suffering which can even give the “appearance” of being righteous. But it must be seen and outgrown.

The Acts of John is one of the Gnostic books. This is an excerpt:

The freedom from mechanical suffering comes from the conscious experience of it by remaining present to it. Very difficult to do in practice.

Hi Nick,

I’ve read this through several times and I can’t see that what you’re saying has anything to do with the quote. Can you explain?

I don’t think that Myth is just passed on or delegated to following generations, it develops first. In Christianity, Paul seems to have identified Christos with God’s attribute of wisdom and the Greek idea of Logos, although he always uses Christos and no other terminology. Whilst amongst the Jews who had known Jesus, this wasn’t readily accepted, Paul seems to have built his understanding of Christ into his preaching to the Gentiles from the time he returned from Arabia, or even earlier.

The character of this revelation through Jesus took some 100 years to appear in other writings, especially the Gospel of John, but also of Luke and Matthew, showing how long it took to gain widespread recognition - or perhaps how long Jewish Christians had influence. Clearly the mystical aspect had early recognition, as we can even see in Mark’s Gospel.

I don’t know whether the essence of the Christos Mythos was replaced early on. I think generally the resistance came from those who, like today, have difficulty combining Jesus bar Josef and Christos Jesus. The “life of Jesus” studies in the last two hundred years show that this hasn’t changed and I believe the “Imitatio Christi” in it’s varying forms does have spiritual relevance.

It was when Christians received power that the humble Jew Jesus became overshadowed by the cosmic Christ, which could expalin the struggles within the church at that time. Reports of this struggle are of course polemicised by those who kept the upper hand, but it may well be that the main cause for dissent was the loss of the humble Jew and a growing antisemitism within the church.

The “I am” statements are paralleled by Proverbs 8:22-32 and give us an indication where this idea came from. Of course the “I am” is JHVH, speaking as the Christos through the man Jesus. But the struggle on the mount of Olives makes it clear that it was obedience that singled him out. He is portrayed as having a choice, but chosing to do the will of God.


Hi Bob

First I must make it clear that I do believe religion is a beneficial societal influence. On that level it serves as sort of a moral policeman. Of course it has its failings but these failings are the result of what we are and how we’ve distorted it. If that is the case, we would be much worse off without it; with no societal influence beyond ethics to make us think twice so to speak.

However, the ideas that are the basis of all these ancient concepts vary depending on an individual’s openness to understanding beyond their immediate self interests and fear based escapism.

Let me distinguish between myth and parable as I understand it:

The point I am making is that the “myth” of Jesus does not reflect the essence of the teaching. The spiritual truth passed on that exists beyond the societal good through a parable is lost in the case of myth and in this case the myth of Jesus.

Christianity must be experienced. It isn’t a matter of what to do. That is largely irrelevant. One admits to being a sinner and that one cannot do. The idea is to change so one can do what they’ve inwardly acknowledged as valuable for them. It begins with the attempt of experiencing it. The myth loses this and people forget the necessity of the experience and start wanting to do this and that. This is the gradual devolution of the conscious experience of Christianity into the unconscious reactions to it which are furthered through “inspiration”. Humility furthers the need for experience. Egotism furthers the desired to do this or that through inspiration. The good or bad of these “doings” are based on societal norms of the day but lack the conscious experience which is the real aim of the teaching.

Paul’s understanding was experiential where Peter’s for example was gradual through slow inner work to be able to finally reach some experiences.

As far as writing, remember that it was an oral teaching which means that a person could not write on it before they understood it. This took years. The writings would have to contain the layers of meaning that are within the teaching and this is not easy to express.

I believe that the Cosmic Christ entered Jesus when John the Baptist saw the dove descending upon him as described in John 1…

But the struggle on the mount of Olives makes it clear that it was obedience that singled him out. He is portrayed as having a choice, but chosing to do the will of God.

I agree he had the choice and was indeed “I Am”. It was this power of choice that made it significant. It is not something that we have since as a plurality, we are not “I Am”. We do not possess this degree of inner unity. This is only our potential.

Hi Nick,

It’s interesting to see how you are on a completely different avenue to me. Yes, religion has a beneficial societal influence on believers, but that is secondary. I think that Religion tries to explain experiences in a manner that allows people to gain a similar experience by listening or reading the story. The same goes for parables of course, but in a different way. Myths are stories that you ‘get in to’ and travel along the route the archetypes originally went. Parables can have nothing in common with the experience except the reaction to the point made. In that way, it is true that “in the parable we see the perfect distinction between form and essence, shell and kernel.”

I think that “the ideas that are the basis of all these ancient concepts” are long lost, unless we discover them in the myths they have left behind. To tell a parable, you have to have understood something and been genial enough to put it into a different framework. I think that myth is for those of us who are far removed from the original ideas and not able to create parables.

Whose teaching are you talking about here? Do you mean Jesus’ teaching? We know enough for leading Jewish scholars to say that his teaching has a distinct pharisaic/rabbinical touch to it. We even have enough for scholars to identify “Hebraisms” that lie beneath the ‘uncomfortable’ Greek of the early Gospels. I’m not so sure that so much is lost. At least we have a clear distinction between Jesus bar Josef and Christ Jesus and we can see where they merge.

I think you are wrong here. Of course Paul makes the point that nobody can ‘do’ anything to ‘save himself’ – but it has always been grace that grants salvation, and following the Torah was always an expression of faith, not a self-redemptive act. That is precisely where Jesus was in his teaching. He sought this faith that expresses itself in mercy and compassion, even for enemies, because faith believes that God is ‘reconciling the world with himself’ through the righteous, the first of whom Christians say was Christ. Love is the greatest expression of faith and hope, and is what should be the basis of our witness.

Do you really believe that there is a ‘conscious experience of Christianity’ that is different to mystical and communal experience? I think you would have to describe that to me. And whilst you are about it, explain how this differs to ‘inspiration.’

John 1:32 (also Mk. 1:10; Mt. 3:16; Lk.3:22) – but isn’t this just all figurative speech, giving the reading an understanding of the importance of this occasion as the beginning of his ministry? I don’t believe that it is ‘historical’ but that it is the way that the story is told. Jesus is being portrayed as the Christ in this passage, far removed from the actual occurrence. John is Myth-Building.


Hi Bob

We may pick up a “specific scent” through a myth that aids in the search. I do agree that a person who is dead inside will not appreciate the parable but those more open can derive something genuine. This is why I believe Jesus taught in this way. People couldn’t be hurt by the parable but could be hurt by having direct knowledge fall on the imaginary negative sides of the psych.

Scholars are often just sleeping people. What can they understand about conscious knowledge?

Christianity is interesting in that it existed before Jesus. Many of the rituals adopted by the church fathers came from very ancient Egypt. Of course there is truth in the Torah but is insufficient by itself to create the type of inner change known in Christianity as re-birth. In the words of Father Sylvan:

Jesus taught exercises for this self development to the disciples but for good reason, these things are not recorded in ways that they can become common knowledge. I see it necessary not to think Judaism and Christianity are the same but complimentary.

Real Christian love is beyond the secular. Of course it is good to help ones neighbor but true Christian love is what allows one to help another to awaken. It is this level of conscious love that helps another to awaken. This is beyond the secular love.

Wadaya want, everything? :slight_smile:

The conscious experience of Christianity is the gradual growth of understanding. There are, I believe, intermediate levels of Christianity. There are successive stages of understanding. The mystic is one thing but how is the regular guy to profit from another’s experience? How does one consciously grow in their Christianity? It requires the holy faculty of “attention”. This growth is within the teaching. It allows us “to be able” to be Christian.

A community of sleeping people no matter how well intentioned can never achieve what a community guided by conscious leadership can.

I believe it to be true though it is easily misunderstood. At a certain time in Jesus life on earth, he became able to receive the cosmic Christ allowing its influence to do what was necessary. As the baby Jesus could be born from Mary’s receptivity to higher forces, Jesus life on earth created the inner environment within him open to receive the cosmic Christ. I believe there is something very true behind all the myth that has been created.