I can’t fool myself. Like any writer, I’d like to think at least a few people are reading what I write.
But as a novelist I struggle with a huge disadvantage, one that few writers overcome. I can’t write the same book over and over. I can’t even work in the same genre.
Someone who can write the same book over and over is someone who gets read. Someone who writes in at least the same genre over and over gets read.
But someone who writes what I think is mainstream fiction one day (CHINA BLUES & CHASING WOMEN) , then historical fiction the next (that was one long day: it took seven years to research and compose THE SECRET MAGDALENE and three years to create FLOW DOWN LIKE SILVER, HYPATIA OF ALEXANDRIA) can’t build a readership.
So then what do I do? Instead of building on the interest of a major publisher when Random House bought my Magdalene and encouraged my Hypatia, I have to go off and write HOUDINI HEART. I didn’t know it was horror as it appeared on my screen each day, fully formed in the mind of its nameless lead character. But apparently it is. The Horror Writers of America certainly saw it that way else why ask me to submit it for a Bram Stoker Award for the Best Horror Novel of 2011? It didn’t win but it came horrifyingly close.
And now what do I do? I’ve been taken over by a would-be noir private detective. He’s named himself Sam Russo. He was dragged up in a Home for Kids Nobody Wants. He lives in Stapleton, a town nobody knows, on Staten Island, a place nobody takes seriously. I was born on Staten Island. I haven’t seen it since. But Sam has.
For Sam, it’s the late 1940s, he’s survived the Second World War fighting on the Pacific Front in the last cavalry unit of the US military. Sam loves horses and horse-racing. He likes reading dime crime paperbacks in his one room four story walk-up. He’s crazy for the movies. Jimmy Cagney. Edward G. Robinson. Bogart! He wants to be Bogie. He wants to solve crimes. He wants to be hard-boiled. He wants to swap wisecracks with great lookin’ dames. He doesn’t want a dog.
I’ve written three Sam Russo cases, now available in all the latest formats books appear in these days. SHADOW ROLL is set at the Saratoga racetrack in Saratoga Springs, New York. Three young jockeys are dead. The town would like ’em to stay that way and get on with their lucrative racing season. Sam wants to solve all three cases like Bogie would. GOOD DOG, BAD DOG takes him and his new-found friend, the one he’s brought back from Saratoga, up and down Broadway: “The Great White Way.” They’re in and out of one hit show after another looking for a giant killer. THE GIRL IN THE NEXT ROOM is all about his neighbor Holly. She has the single room next to his. Holly is a girl. Or maybe he isn’t. Whatever Holly is, Sam and his new friend like her. They like her a lot. So when she disappears off her street corner, they take it seriously, very seriously.
Now I’m writing DEAD ON THE ROCKS. Sam is on a huge first class yacht headed for Florida. And so is his friend. Sam hates water.
You see? As a writer, I’m all over the place. What next? A surreal musical film called THE LAST SHOWBOAT?
I’d ask for professional help, but I love writing. Apparently, I’ll write pretty much anything. Well, maybe not a western. But then, but then… there’s all those pretty horses.
I hope this causes a wee spot of outrage, since, as my now temporarily out-of-body husband, the wonderfully outrageous Vivian Stanshall, used to say, “An outrage a day keeps complaisance at bay.” (He also said, once he’d gotten over the shock of his unexpected Viking death: “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.”)
Once upon a time, the very first people who followed the teachings of Jesus were Pagan. Who Jesus actually was is a matter of much debate; that he actually was, is also a matter of debate. But that a religion formed in his name is a matter of accepted fact. But what becomes increasingly evident to those paying attention is Christianity is what became of a Pagan Mystery religion called Gnosticism. Gnosis, a Greek word meaning knowledge” (but not any knowledge: “intimate personal knowledge of the divine”), lay at the very heart of this new Mystery religion, just as it lies at the center of all Mystery religions.
Before Rome and the Catholic Church spent three hundred violent years changing history, and with it human values and expectations, there were at least two dozen life-death-rebirth deities throughout the world, some of whom were female, and the most famous of whom are: Osiris of the Egyptians, Tammuz of the Akkadians (to the horror of Jewish priests, Tammuz was beloved of Jewish women before and during the life of Jesus), Atunis of the Etruscans, Adonis (who was born of a virgin in a cave in the sacred grove called Bethlehem), Dionysus of the Greeks, Vishnu of the Indians, Attis of the Phrygians, Aeneas of the Romans, Mithras of the Persians, and the sweet shepherd of Sumer, who was the dying god Dumuzi. Even the Celts had a Godman: Cernunnos, the Horn-ed One, Lord of the Wild Things.
Many of these Godmen were born of a virgin whose name was often Mary, or a form of Mari, Queen of Heaven. They came forth in a cave in the deepest darkest part of the winter (December 25th was the birthday of the Persian Godman Mithras which is why at the First Council of Nicaea this birth-date was given to Jesus: a way to silence Mithraism, the only religion to challenge Catholicism for the official blessing of Rome), each Godman was tortured and then brutally slain for our sins, very often hung on a tree or a stake, and was then interred or buried—but rose again on the third day. All this derives from observing the skies: especially the truly ancient twelve signs of the Zodiac, the constellation of Orion (then called Osiris), and the brightest star in the sky, Sirius (known as Sopdet in ancient Egypt, meaning Isis of Ten Thousand Names)…for all of this is symbolic of the Sun, our first God. (The Moon was our first Goddess who predated the Sun God by many thousands of years, but now is not the time.) In Christianity, astrological astronomy is everywhere…not that many seem to notice: twelve disciples, twelve loaves, twelve days of Christmas, twelve tribes.
Jesus Christ was the Godman of Gnosticism who in every important way was a copy of Osiris, the Pagan Godman who died each year in The Passion of Osiris so that Egyptians might live. But Jesus was tailored specifically for the Jews by the Jewish philosopher Philo Judaeus, as well as by a few of his friends throughout the range of the Jewish diaspora. The only difference between Osiris and the new Christ—and this difference turned out to be fatal for Pagans—was that Jesus was a Jewish Godman. Tailored for Jews, Philo and his friends were required to weave in the potent strands of the Jewish Messiah myth in order to “sell” him to the Jews. (Just as Pythagoras, wishing to bring the Passion of Osiris to the Greeks, made a minor Greek god called Dionysus into a Greek Godman.) The big glitch in Philo’s plans was this: the Jews expected the Messiah to come “in the flesh”. They expected him to arrive as their living King and to sweep the Romans from Judaea, the Arabic sons of the great Herod from their palaces, and the lax and unLawful Priests from the Temple. Forced to combine the usual Godman with this Messiah turned what had been a perfectly good, tried-and-true concept into something that had never been before: a living Godman. Over the course of the next few centuries a smattering of converts to Jesus Christ began to clumsily blend together the Gnostic teacher, Jesus the Nazorean, the new Jewish Godman, and the Messiah. It was a messy process and remains messy, especially as so soon as they accomplished this, they forgot the symbolic meaning of Gnostic teaching, and became preoccupied with the supposed “facts” of the life of Jesus, a life now mirroring the myth of any Godman’s “life” and “death.”
Things now get complicated, only growing more complicated over the years as more and more voices added their clamor to the once symbolic Passion and the once simple Gnostic teachings. And here’s where the Gnostics, beginning without the burden of priests or a hierarchy of Papal Power, and once embracing women and the Goddess, began to splinter and shatter into literalist groups espousing beliefs antithetical to any true Pagan, and—had he been there—to Jesus himself.
But to go back one thousand nine hundred and a few dozen years ago, the first scattered groups of what could be called proto-Christians knew their new Godman Jesus Christ was a form of deity already in existence. They knew he was a Godman amongst other Godmen. They knew also that Mary Magdalene was his consort as Isis was the consort of Osiris, and that she was the Goddess. They did not believe that Jesus Christ was God made flesh. They did not believe he was the only Son of God. They called themselves “Gnostics” because at the heart of this new movement (although in truth a movement as old as time) was the quest for gnosis, or divine insight.
This is what Saul of Tarsus (Paul in Latin) taught. Although there are fifteen or so letters by Paul in the New Testament, only eight (maybe less) of these letters are authentic. All the rest are forgeries written many years later by early church fathers to claim him for Christianity. But Paul was a Gnostic. He was not an anti-Semite, nor was he a woman hater. These are “qualities” given him later in the forged letters. In truth, he traveled with a woman called Thecla, who baptized and preached at his side. Nowhere in Paul’s letters to the various Gnostic groups he was trying to organize, does he mention the “life” of Jesus Christ, for nothing about Jesus interests Paul save his crucifixion. Since Paul’s authentic letters were the earliest documents claimed by the Catholic Church as evidence of the historical truth of Jesus, it would seem odd he does not write of Christ’s life. It ceases to be odd when you realize that for Paul, whilst Jesus may or may not have existed, the “Christ” was the Jewish Godman. Paul’s interest was in the suffering and death of the Godman, and that’s because the crucifixion is The Passion of Osiris or Dionysus remade for new ears. Ironically, those new ears were expected by Philo and his friends to be Jewish, but the Jews rejected Philo’s new Godman and they rejected Paul and his Jewish/Pagan Gnostic teaching. (To this day, for observant Jews, the Messiah is yet to come.) In despair and anger, Paul turned to Gentiles. He died a disappointed man, and, at the time, a forgotten figure in Gnosticism. Doubly ironic, those who did not reject Paul’s message of the “Christ,” by which he meant divine insight, or enlightenment (for that’s what happened to him on the Road to Damascus: he was filled with Christ Consciousness or the God Realization or Nirvana or what-have-you) were simple Gentile peasants, who increasingly took the message “literally.” And gradually, over the next few hundred years, it was these non-Jewish literalists who created Christianity by their very insistence on taking what was meant as outer symbol for historical truth.
But they did not create Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. That was the work of the Emperor Constantine and a gathering of Literalist Bishops at the First Counsel of Nicaea in 325 CE. From this came the Nicene Creed, or “the profession of faith.” It was here that the central beliefs of Christianity were set down, and virtually none of these beliefs stemmed from the very first Jewish Gnostics, or from the symbolic Godman teachings of Paul, or from the probable earlier teaching of Jesus. It was also here that the newly Rome-accepted Catholic Church was granted the use of the Roman army to suppress by any means necessary the Gnostic Pagans who also claimed Jesus Christ as their own. If you’ve all grown up, as I have, hearing about the terrible tribulations of the early Christians, I am here to state boldly: it was not the literalist Christians who were suppressed so much as it was the literalist Christians, now become the Catholic Church, who tortured and killed the Gnostics, and destroyed their work…which is why the Western World is not Pagan today, or Gnostic, but Christian. More irony, the four gospels accepted by the Church (out of thousands once extant) are Gnostic gospels (very evident in the Gospel of John which begins with a direct quote from the Egyptian Book of the Dead) and are entirely symbolic. To read them today is to read Pagan teaching if we realize we are not reading history, but symbolism.
What I am saying is that Christmas is a pure Pagan holiday. By this, I don’t mean that it’s based on a Pagan Winter Solstice celebration, and I don’t mean that it was “stolen” from Pagans since Christianity hasn’t one single thing about it that is original, and I don’t mean that it contains within itself countless hidden Pagan references—although all these things are true. No, I mean a flat-out: Christmas is Pagan. I mean there’s nothing “Christian” about it. What I really mean is that Jesus Christ was and remains a Pagan Godman. I mean that Mary Magdalene was and remains his consort, his mother, and the old woman who stood under his cross. She is The Triple Goddess in the guise of the seemingly separate Mary, Martha, and the Magdalene: maiden, mother, crone. (From the Gospel of Philip, discovered amongst the Gnostic codices dug up in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, sometime in 1945: “There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.”)
To go deeper: by its very nature the secret heart of a Mystery religion is unknowable. It is beyond that which can be expressed in words. But it does express itself in sacred symbols and secret rites which confer spiritual and magical benefits. To follow a Gnostic Mystery religion is to travel a path leading to a blessed and beatific understanding.
The highest promise for the exoteric initiates was to share, and therefore to feel, the natural life-death-rebirth cycle as it was evoked through the life-death-rebirth of a Godman, and in some cases, Godwoman. (Persephone of the Greeks is an example of this, as is Innana of the Sumerians.) But the true highest promise, that one given to the esoteric “inner” initiates, was to achieve gnosis, or divine insight. In the tradition of the Buddha, and as Jesus taught, this is called enlightenment and is a state of personal rapture allowing the one so blessed to Know the All.
Contrary to popular thought, Enlightenment or gnosis does not make a person “perfect.” It does not erase the Ego. It does not exalt them above all other people. But it does allow the “enlightened” person, or Gnostic, to Know the All.
What is there to “know”? That we are all One. That we are all Loved. That we are all Eternal and we are all Safe. Therefore we do not require “saving” or “redeeming” since we are not lost. This world is not lesser or evil or fallen or failed. There is no male God sitting in judgment over us. We do not have to “behave.” There is nothing that is not blessed in Consciousness for all is Experience. We each and every one of us create what we think of as “reality” making us all, by definition, creators. We are all Divine. What could be further from Christian belief?
But as all esoteric members of a Mystery religion understood, divine insight cannot be taught, it is not an understanding of the intellect. It must be felt. And it must be felt with the whole of the self through the arousal of terror, pity, horror, sorrow, joy. Mel Gibson with his “Passion of Christ” seems to me and to perhaps many others a misguided soul, but he also seems innately, and without knowing it, to have grasped the deepest intent behind the Passion, which is to make people feel. In the original Passion, that of Osiris, which took place once a year in front of thousands of devotees, this is exactly what was intended…for people to feel and to feel deeply. First, pity as Osiris the Godman was tortured, then terror as he was hung up to die in terrible pain, then reverence as he was tenderly taken down by the Triple Goddess and placed in a tomb. And then awe as he rose on the third day—and finally, hopefully, to know gnosis.
Basically, the gospel story of Jesus Christ is a spiritual allegory, Pagan in source, encapsulating a profound philosophy that leads to mythical enlightenment. Therefore, the Jewish Gnostic teacher, Jesus the Nazorean, is Pagan. The Godman, Jesus Christ, is Pagan. Early Gnosticism is Pagan.
And with that, I wish you all a very merry Pagan Christmas, and an eternal New Year.
* Holiday = Holy Day = Heli = Sun = all adding up to Day of the Sun. Not to mention that the Holy Land is the land over which the First God Sun rises each day, meaning the East.
Drawing from so many works on this subject, enough to fill an entire library (it certainly fills mine), I offer only mine. (So many others upon request.)
“The Secret Magdalene” found online in the usual places and in bookstores.
(Trimmed from an article written long ago. It certainly seems long ago.)