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Saturday, May 13, 2006

 

Christmas was on 7th January

Mithra was an ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god after the religion Mithraism went from Indian subcontinent to the Arabian peninsula at around Persia about 400 BC. . In the early centuries of the Christian era, Mithraism was the most wide-spread religion in the Western World, and its remains are to be found in monuments scattered around the countries of Europe, which then comprised the known civilised world. Mithra was regarded as created by, yet co-equal with, the Supreme Deity. Mithraists were Trinitarian, kept Sunday as their day of worship, and their chief festivals were what we know of as Christmas and Easter. Long before the advent of Jesus, Mithra was said to have been born of a virgin mother, in a cave, at the time of Christmas, and died on a cross at Easter. Baptism was practised, and the sign of the cross was made on the foreheads of all newly-baptised converts. Mithra was considered to be the saviour of the world, conferring on his followers an eternal life in Heaven, and, similar to the story of Jesus, he died to save all others, provided that they were his followersUp until the time of the Emperor Constantine, it was the latter religion which was more popular within the framework of the Roman Empire, and Christianity was regarded as being only one sect amongst numerous other sects. It was only when Constantine decreed that Christianity was to be the state religion, that Mithraism, together with a host of other religions and sects, was put into the melting pot, and ideas of that religion, most suited for the Christian purpose, were absorbed into the new state-approved religion.For three centuries both religions ran parallel, Mithraism first becoming known to the Romans in 70 BC, Christianity following a century later, and it wasn't until AD 377 that Christianity became sufficiently strong to suppress its former rival, although Mithraism was to remain a formidable opponent for some time after that, only slowly being forsaken by the people. It was only the absorption of many Mithraist ideas into Christianity which finally saw its downfall.
The big turning point was brought about by the Congress of Nicaea in AD 325. Constantine, a great supporter of the Christian religion, although not converting to it until the time of his decease, gathered together 2,000 leading figures in the world of theology, the idea being to bring about the advent of Christianity as the official state religion of Rome. It was out of this assembly that Jesus was formally declared to be the Son of God, and Saviour of Mankind, another slain saviour god, bringing up the tally of slain god-men to seventeen, of which Mithra, together with such men as Bel and Osiris, was includedJust as Nicaea can be regarded as the birthplace of Christianity, so too it can be regarded as the graveyard of what we imagine Jesus taught. From that time onwards, Christianity was to absorb the superstitions of Mithraism, and many other older religions, and what was believed to have happened to earlier saviour gods, was made to centre around the Nazarene. The coming of Christianity under state control was to preserve it as a religion, and was the death knell of all other sects and cults within the Roman Empire.
Had Constantine decided to retain Mithraism as the official state religion, instead of putting Christianity in its place, it would have been the latter that would have been obliterated. To Constantine however, Christianity had one great advantage, it preached that repentant sinners would be forgiven their sins, provided that they were converted Christians at the time of their Passing, and Constantine had much to be forgiven for, He personally did not convert to the new religion until he was on his death bed, the reason being that only sins committed following conversion were accountable, so all sins committed by a convert, prior to conversion, didn't matter, and he could hardly have sinned too much whilst he was lying on his death bed. Mithraism could not offer the same comfort to a man like Constantine, who was regarded as being one of the worst mass-murderers of his time.
The Emperor Julian, who followed Constantine, went back to Mithraism, but his short reign of only two years could not change what Constantine had decreed. His defeat, and death, at the hands of the Persians, was used by the Christians as an argument in favour of the new, against the old, being looked upon as an omen that Christianity had divine approval. If Julian had been spared to reign some years longer, the entire history of international religion would almost certainly have been different.
Under Emperor Jovian, who followed Julian, the substitution of Christianity for Mithraism made further progress, and old Pagan beliefs, like the Virgin Birth, Baptism and Holy Trinity, became generally accepted as the basis of the state religion. The early Christian idea of Unitarianism was quickly squashed in favour of Trinitarianism, and those who refused to accept the Holy Trinity were put to the sword, the beginning of mass slaughter in the name of religion, which was to go on for centuries. The origin of the cult of Mithra dates from the time that the Hindus and Persians still formed one people, for the god Mithra occurs in the religion and the sacred books of both races, i.e. in the Vedas and in the Avesta. In Vedic hymns he is frequently mentioned and is nearly always coupled with Varuna, but beyond the bare occurrence of his name, little is known of him (Rigveda, III, 59). It is conjectured (Oldenberg, "Die "Religion des Veda," Berlin, 1894) that Mithra was the rising sun, Varuna the setting sun; or, Mithra, the sky at daytime, Varuna, the sky at night; or, the one the sun, the other the moon. In any case Mithra is a light or solar deity of some sort; but in vedic times the vague and general mention of him seems to indicate that his name was little more than a memory. In the Avesta he is much more of a living and ruling deity than in Indian piety; nevertheless, he is not only secondary to Ahura Mazda, but he does not belong to the seven Amshaspands or personified virtues which immediately surround Ahura; he is but a Yazad, a popular demigod or genius. The Avesta however gives us his position only after the Zoroastrian reformation; the inscriptions of the Achaemenidae (seventh to fourth century B.C.) assign him amuch higher place, naming him immediately after Ahura Mazda and associating him with the goddess Anaitis (Anahata), whose name sometimes precedes his own. Mithra is the god of light, Anaitis the goddess of water. Independently of the Zoroastrian reform, Mithra retained his place as foremost deity in the north-west of the Iranian highlands. After the conquest of Babylon this Persian cult came into contact with Chaldean astrology and with the national worship of Marduk. For a time the two priesthoods of Mithra and Marduk (magi and chaldaei respectively) coexisted in the capital and Mithraism borrowed much from this intercourse. This modified Mithraism traveled farther north-westward and became the State cult of Armenia. Its rulers, anxious to claim descent from the glorious kings of the past, adopted Mithradates as their royal name (so five kings of Georgia, and Eupator of the Bosporus). Mithraism then entered Asia Minor, especially Pontus and Cappadocia. Here it came into contact with the Phrygian cult of Attis and Cybele from which it adopted a number of ideas and practices, though apparently not the gross obscenities of the Phrygian worship. This Phrygian-Chaldean-Indo-Iranian religion, in which the Iranian element remained predominant, came, after Alexander's conquest, in touch with the Western World. Hellenism, however, and especially Greece itself, remained remarkably free from its influence. When finally the Romans took possession of the Kingdom of Pergamum, occupied Asia Minor and stationed two legions of soldiers on the Euphrates, the success of Mithraism in the West was secured. It spread rapidly from the Bosporus to the Atlantic, from Illyria to Britain. Its foremost apostles were the legionaries; hence it spread first to the frontier stations of the Roman army.Mithraism was emphatically a soldier religion: Mithra, its hero, was especially a divinity of fidelity, manliness, and bravery; the stress it laid on good fellowship and brotherliness, its exclusion of women, and the secret bond amongst its members have suggested the idea that Mithraism was Masonry amongst the Roman soldiery. At the same time Eastern slaves and foreign tradesmen maintained its propaganda in the cities. When magi, coming from King Tiridates of Armenia, had worshipped in Nero an emanation of Mithra, the emperor wished to be initiated in their mysteries. As Mithraism passed as a Phrygian cult it began to share in the official recognition which Phrygian worship had long enjoyed in Rome. The Emperor Commodus was publicly initiated. Its greatest devotee however was the imperial son of a priestess of the sun-god at Sirmium in Pannonia, Valerian, who according to the testimony of Flavius Vopiscus, never forgot the cave where his mother initiated him. In Rome, he established a college of sun priests and his coins bear the legend "Sol, Dominus Imperii Romani". Diocletian, Galerius, and Licinius built at Carnuntum on the Danube a temple to Mithra with the dedication: "Fautori Imperii Sui". But with the triumph of Christianity Mithraism came to a sudden end. Under Julian it had with other pagan cults a short revival. The pagans of Alexandria lynched George the Arian, bishop of the city, for attempting to build a church over a Mithras cave near the town. The laws of Theodosius I signed its death warrant. The magi walled up their sacred caves; and Mithra has no martyrs to rival the martyrs who died for Christ.

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