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Response to onehandle (Original post)

Fri Mar 29, 2013, 06:04 AM

34. Good gesture! Tells me he may know what the problem is...

...and that it is very, very old, indeed, and deeply rooted, way back in the 5th century--the original sin of the Church-as-institution.

It was a specific crime that led to all the others and that sent the Church down the wrong road into woman-hatred from which it has never recovered.

In the 5th century, a woman named Hypatia, a mathematician and philosopher, who was the beloved teacher of bishops and other clergy, was skinned alive on the streets of Alexandria by a mob of monks under the direction of a very evil man, Bishop Cyril, who went on to cause a riot and sword fights at a Church synod over the weird subject of the virginity of Jesus' mother. The man was sick, but became a "Father of the Church"--the first to call himself a "patriarch"--and was later canonized as a "saint," by which the Church means that he is in Heaven with God.

What had Hypatia done? She was a brilliant, powerful and highly respected figure. She was a Pagan but that does not explain the horror of her death at the hands of allegedly 'christian' monks. Alexandria was famous for its learning and its tolerance of all religions, philosophies and cultures. It was a haven for the Jews, especially the Alexandria Library, when she headed at that time. She was friends with Orestes, the Roman governor of Alexander. Like the rightwing of today in the U.S, Cyril was trying to undermine the civil government and subject it to Church rule. He sent his mobs against the Jews, confiscated their property and drove them out of Alexandria. Orestes opposed him, and they clashed several times. But neither does this explain the particular horror of Hypatia's murder.

Skinning alive in those days was intended to prevent the soul from going to Heaven. It was worse than death. It was eternal damnation.

Why did Hypatia merit eternal damnation, in this truly terrible form of murder? (--not to mention how Cyril ended up presumed into Heaven by Church "sainthood"; he is called Saint Cyril to this day.)

None of her works survived the crumbling of the Roman Empire. Probably they were burned. (Cyril's monks also attacked the Library.) An index indicates that she wrote several mathematical works. The only thing that remains are the letters of Bishop Sinesius of Ptolemais TO Hypatia. Sinesius had been her pupil and worshiped her. How is it that a Christian bishop considered Pagan Hypatia to be his greatest teacher? Interesting question.

There are hints in his letters to her (and also in certain other events that occurred around that time) that what she may have been embarked upon was peace between, and possibly even a synthesis of, Pagan and Christian teachings--the wedding of Pagan learning (which, in Hypatia's case, was embedded in highly ethical and high-minded neoplatonism) and Jesus' message of love for all, across tribal, religious and class lines.

Another feature of Paganism is worship of the Goddess--a particular target of "Fathers of the Church" like Cyril who took control of Church doctrine, or rather, established that there would be Church doctrine--rigid doctrine from which no one was permitted to deviate. This notion gained ascendance with the cementing of the Church with the power of the State, around the same time. One doctrine (all others anathematized), one Church, enforced by the brutal powers of king and emperor, with particular emphasis on casting out any group, leader or set of ideas that included the Goddess (such as the Christian neoplatonists of the time--the Gnostics) or anything remotely connected to the Goddess (such as the nature worship of the Pelagian Christians) or anything human (such as Jesus being born of a normal mother).

What seems to have seized this sick man Cyril's mind was loathing of women. He is the main force of that era for infecting the Church with this original sin. Jesus didn't hate or loathe women. In fact, in the Gnostic gospels he basically designates Mary Magdalen as head of the apostles. He says she is the only one of them who really understands his teaching. Cyril and his ilk burned those gospels, and somebody during that era grabbed a whole bunch of them, in willy-nilly fashion, as if in a hurry, and buried them in a cave in sealed jars in a desert near Alexandria (where they remained, undiscovered, until the 20th century). So there was obviously an underground movement, at the time--the same period as Hypatia's death--to preserve that which the Cyrils of the newly doctrine-ridden Church were trying to extinguish.

There is an underground Church that runs all through Church history--driven underground by people like Cyril--in which there is no such conflict with half the human race and no such loathing of women and rejection of the Goddess. This is the real Church--the Church of the People, not of the Prelates; the Church of the washing of feet, not the swishing of red robes and the crowning of kings. The washing of feet is a womanly act, a motherly act, a loving act. In doing it, Jesus made himself like a woman and made women (who were often the servants performing tasks like this) equal.

The male hierarchy, with its 1,500 years of misogyny dating back to "Saint' Cyril, turned that act into yet another exclusive male ritual. Pope Francis seems to have sensed its true origin and meaning. I doubt that this will result in reversal of the misogyny of Church doctrine or policy any time soon but it might start the process of bringing the underground Church--the real Church--aboveground. I think that Hypatia was an early activist in that underground Church, earnestly trying to direct bishops and monks onto a higher path of learning and tolerance, and she paid for it by an intolerant, woman-hating dogmatist trying to destroy her very soul, with the particular torture that he subjected her to.

To cleanse such a profound sin will take time. We obviously have quite a lot of sick male descendants of Cyril, quite abominably in positions of religious and moral authority. There is no easy cure for this. But I have to say that symbolism is a good way to begin. Symbols and symbolic acts can be very powerful in bringing about the deep, psychic change that is needed to overcome such a history of error, sin and crime. These men--bishops, cardinals, many priests--are deeply attached to the notion of their superiority--their primacy before God, their self-worship. They are also very, VERY attached to symbols, and need the help of symbols to overcome it. Maybe Pope Francis was intentional in this, or maybe only intuitively or dimly aware of it. Hard to say. But he seems to have good instincts.

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LineReply Good gesture! Tells me he may know what the problem is...
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