Astrotheology, A Religious Belief System (as per D.M. Murdock/Acharya S)
by Neil GodfreyThe more I have read of the works of Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock) and the more engagement I have had with those who fervently advocate her views the more I have suspected that some form of cult-like belief system lies beneath their surface appearances. Part of the reason for my suspicions has been the vitriolic reactions on their part against any attempt to honestly critique their views and engage them in argument that consistently follows the norms of scholarly or “scientific” reasoning. I have been portrayed in some very colorful terms by both Acharya and those I believe it is fair to say are her followers. In effect I have been lumped together with others as deliberately closed-minded, bigoted and out to lyingly slander them. My record of defending Acharya against some of the worst insults I have read on the web counts for nothing.
Finally one of Acharya’s fairly prominent online supporters, Robert Tulip, has “come out” and made it very clear that my suspicions were right all along. Astrotheology — the view they propagate — is a form of religious belief. They believe as strongly as any fundamentalist that they are right and anyone who does not agree with them after they explain it all is perverse or willfully blind. Expressions of disagreement are interpreted as expressions of hostility or even persecution.
And like religious cults, they curry good relations with prominent or respectable names that they believe will give their cause a benign public face. Anyone with public standing among those they seek to influence and who has had a positive word to say about Acharya’s books is promoted as a witness that they really are a genuinely scholarly (even scientific) group of truth-seekers. I have finally come to believe they are as scientific as Scientology; their efforts to claim to follow the scientific method are a falsehood. I doubt that people like Earl Doherty really do understand exactly what it is their names are being used to support when they insist that such people have made supportive comments about their publications.
My full awareness of all of this did not come quickly. I have hoped my suspicions were not true often enough. If I can be shown to be mistaken I would greatly welcome it and apologize for this post and withdraw it.
What finally led me to give up any remaining doubts I had about their religious or cult status was a series of posts on the EarlyWritings Forum. The most recent of these posts, under the title Loaves and Fishes, were prompted by pressure from a few of us for Robert to demonstrate the scientific or scholarly basis for his rejection of normal (“midrashic”/literary-critical) explanations for the miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Gospels and his belief that this narrative was written as a code of some sort for “astrotheology” beliefs. The result is the epitome of parallelomania (as I have explained this through Sandmel’s definitions a couple of times recently); but the worst part comes at the end when it is made very clear that Robert himself takes his interpretation as a personal belief system along with the fundamentalist-like view that anyone who fails to share his enlightenment is willfully perverse.
Here is Robert Tulip’s explication of the Gospels’ Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. After reading this I finally realized I have been wasting my time taking many of his remarks testifying to an interest in the hypothetico-deductive method at face value. He — and I can only presume the same applies to Acharya S herself — are evidently not interested in scholarly approaches to Christian origins and really are about peddling a quasi-religious type of belief-system.
I have bolded the text that I consider to be the evidence that “astrotheology” as advocated here is indeed a genuine personal belief-system that shuts down any possibility of genuinely scholarly engagement and criticism.
At the end of the post I add a couple of scholarly reviews of David Ulansey’s argument that it was the ancient discovery of the precession of the equinoxes that prompted the rise of Mithraism and possibly even Christianity.
by Robert Tulip » Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:01 pm
Commentary on Gospel Texts on Loaves and Fishes
Collating the text on the loaves and fishes from all four gospels there are about 2000 words, nearly 100 verses. The feeding of the multitude is the most prominent miracle in the Bible, appearing six times compared to three for the resurrection, but it is deeply mysterious. It is literally impossible, so its origins deserve careful analysis. Ruling out magic, the contesting hypotheses for the core meaning focus on Jesus as antitype for Moses or as cosmic allegory.I am happy to discuss what this miracle may really mean, even though I find the tone and level of knowledge of some posters here surprising. In response to Neil Godfrey’s request, I will go through all these verses in order, to explore their apparent most likely meaning. I have noticed that some commenters seem often to ignore what I say, and even to claim I said things I did not say, but that is okay, as we can all read the discussion as it stands and readers can make up their own minds. Even so, I generally prefer that people quote me accurately rather than inaccurately.
. . . . . .
Mark 6:30-4430.The apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus, and they told him all things, whatever they had done, and whatever they had taught.• This ‘all they had done’ motif references the verse Mark 6:7 ‘He called to himself the twelve, and began to send them out’. The implication that Christ is omniscient is similar to both his conversation with the woman at the well who told Christ about her six husbands (like the 6000 years of the fall) and the sun in the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 5:45 that shines equally on the just and unjust. So too the twelve months of the year represent all things under the sun, against the cosmic framework of Christ as the solar year and the apostles as the twelve lunar months surrounding the central source of light and life. The months may be considered separately as each having a different nature, but here the twelve come together and appear as eternally united as varying reflections of the same sun.
http://biblehub.com/mark/6-31.htm 31 He said to them, “You come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 They went away in the boat to a desert place by themselves.• Christ calls the twelve away from the bustle of the world to find spiritual food. The business of the world prevents enlightenment, which requires isolation and meditation. The wilderness motif also indicates the Exodus theme of escape from worldiness to see God. I interpret the apostles and Christ in the boat against the Argonauts and other cognate myths, but that is a complex topic to come back to later.
http://biblehub.com/mark/6-33.htm 33 They saw them going, and many recognized him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to him.• Firstly, it is rather strange that the multitude can recognise Christ despite being located in ‘all the cities’. This is a first impossibility in this myth, since people in numerous cities cannot all see one person as indicated here. But Mark passes over that difficulty with sublime indifference. It indicates that Christ is allegory for something that can be seen from many different places at once, perhaps something that shines equally on the just and the unjust.
Considering Christ as allegory for the sun, and the apostles as allegories for the twelve months of the moon, the multitude appears analogous to the stars of the night sky, with the cities analogous for the constellations. The stellar motif is clearly present in the Holy City of the apocalypse, although lightly hidden in deference to moronic sensibilities. There are in fact about 5000 stars visible from the equator, and 4000 visible from temperate latitudes, so this analogy is plausible for both versions of the number of men participating in the miracle.
34 Jesus came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.• As the sun appears to travel through the multitude of stars each year, its position in each group of stars has a distinct meaning, relevant to the time of year. This traditional view is depicted in the stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral, with the occupations for each month. So the sun gives meaning to the random shapes of the stars through its regular annual procession through them. As we shall see, a deeper eternal meaning of this order is seen, and was perceived by the ancients, in the equally regular slow precession of the sun through the stars, one degree back per human lifetime.
• The shepherd motif echoes King David and the Psalms. In terms of precession, the spring point was in the sign of the ram for two thousand years until the time of Christ, when it moved into the sign of the fish. So the ‘without a shepherd’ idea matches to the stellar disorientation occurring at the time of Christ, well known to the ancients. Philo said Passover occurred when the sun was in the sign of the ram. This had been visibly seen to no longer apply since the blood moon of 23 March 4BC at Passover in Jerusalem, a lunar eclipse that was physically at the foot of the woman (Virgo), directly opposite the sun in Pisces. This event is a possible source for the great wonder seen in heaven described in Revelation 12:1, and for Paul’s motif in Galatians ‘born of a woman’. We can again see this great wonder with the blood moon in the same spot in the sky on 15 April this year.
35 When it was late in the day, his disciples came to him, and said, “This place is deserted, and it is late in the day. 36 Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages, and buy themselves bread, for they have nothing to eat.”• Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 say a thousand years is as a day for God. Theology has used this framework to construct a 7000 year theory of time from Eden to Apocalypse linked to the seven days of creation in Genesis and the vision of the millennium in Revelation. So the ‘late in the day’ timing for the loaves and fishes miracle illustrates that it occurs at a time of shift between ages. The twelve make the practical/allegorical suggestion that dispersal of the men/stars is the only way for them to obtain food/enlightenment.
37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They asked him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give them something to eat?”• Allegorically, the sun/Christ structures the months/apostles against the perennial identity of the star patterns/the multitude, marking the annual cycle of the seasons.
38 He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go see.” When they knew, they said, “Five, and two fish.”• Gnostic ideas are clearly present here. ‘Go see’ is an Enochite reference to the old tradition of the cosmic seers, the watchers who formed the Nazirite Gnostic tradition through Samson to John the Baptist who has just been beheaded (in preference to Salome turning down the offer of half a kingdom) in this chapter. “When they knew” is a very unusual turn of phrase for Mark to use in this spot. It is a rather clunky way to insert the Gnostic theme of knowledge. And the knowledge matches precisely to our cosmic vision of the structure of reality available to the naked eye since time immemorial, with the five visible planets and the two great lights of the sun and moon.
by Robert Tulip » Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:47 am
22 March 2014
Mark 6:39 He commanded them that everyone should sit down in groups on the green grass.The green grass is an evocative image. Somehow I have always imagined this miracle story as occurring on a rocky dusty lake shore, but here we find this image of green fertility, pleasance, abundance, simplicity, peace, order and beauty.
The green grass evokes the line from Peter and Isaiah used by Brahms in his Requiem, behold all flesh is as the grass, with grass a symbol of temporal mortality, hinting toward the cosmic relation between time and eternity.
40 They sat down in ranks, by hundreds and by fifties.With the men sitting in groups considered in this story as meaning stars, we can readily see the grouping as meaning constellations.
41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves, and he gave to his disciples to set before them, and he divided the two fish among them all.The central event of the miracle is the creation of universal abundance by faith and vision from a small source.
The phrase “looking up to heaven” is a strong indication of the astral meaning of the story. Due to the influence of church teaching we are accustomed to thinking of heaven as a place where good people go after death. But Jesus here uses the concept of heaven as something that can be seen by looking up, ie the sky. This old meaning remains in our concept of ‘the heavens’, and in the German use of Himmel for heaven and sky.
So what did Christ see when he looked up to heaven? The astronomical fact is that the shift of ages marked by the position of the sun at the equinoxes moved into star groups conventionally associated with loaves and fishes at precisely the time of Pilate, 21 AD, and this event had been known and anticipated by ancient astronomers for at least a century, and probably in Babylon for many hundreds of years.
The March spring equinox, used by the Jewish calendar to mark the beginning of the year and the timing of the great annual festival of Passover, had occurred with the sun in Aries the Ram since before the time of Moses. But in 21 AD, this annual event shifted into Pisces the Fishes, while the opposite equinox in September shifted from Libra into Virgo the Virgin, whose main star Spica is named after the spike of wheat used to make loaves of bread. So the cosmic axis of the year marked by spring and autumn was understood by ancient astronomers to have shifted at this time into the signs of the loaves and fishes.
This moment of shift of the heavens was in fact a moment of perceived celestial harmony between earth and heaven, as the only time in history when the signs and the seasons have been in perfect alignment. So this perceived connection provides fertile source for the idea that Jesus Christ is the terrestrial incarnation of the eternal God of the universe, bringing the order of the heavens into manifest planetary presence.
The symbolism of the creation of universal abundance from two fish and five loaves is that by understanding our real relation to nature, we can overcome the alienation produced in human psychology and culture by the fall from grace. I interpret the fall as the rise of metal technology, an indicator that our material progress has come without the required social and intellectual progress, and so creates the risk of destruction, requiring a new covenant to restore our state of grace. This reading of the fall aligns with the Enochite Gnostic Watcher Nazirite tradition that Mark 6 has already alluded to with the beheading of John the Baptist, an event which illustrates the oppressive context for Gnosis.
This miracle of the loaves and fishes asserts that if we can re-establish a connection between earth and heaven, we can find miraculous creativity, like the use of faith to move mountains. Without a real understanding of nature we are lost and falling into destruction, but with knowledge we are saved by grace. This idea presents a practical scientific foundation for the reformation of Christianity today on a natural rational basis.
As I have noted already, the numbers five and two for the loaves and fishes key directly into popular ancient knowledge of visual astronomy, representing the five visible planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and the two great lights the Sun and Moon. When Jesus gives the five loaves to the twelve disciples to distribute among the 5000 men, it represents how astronomer priests since time immemorial had watched the regular orderly movement of the planets among the stars to understand the structure of time and the mathematical pattern of the mind of God revealed in the cosmos.
Brahms Requiem wrote:http://www.grandmar-ak.com/virtual-memorialrequiem-lyrics/Behold, all flesh is as the grass, And all the goodliness of man is as the flower of grass; For lo, the grass with’reth, and the flower there-of decayeth. Now, therefore, be patient, O my brethren, unto the coming of Christ. See how the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit, the fruit of the earth, And hath long patience for it, until he receive the early rain and the latter rain. So be ye patient. Behold all flesh is as the grass, and all the goodliness of man is as the flower of grass; For lo, the grass with’reth, and the flower there-of decayeth. But yet the Lord’s word endureth, endureth forever-more. The redeem-ed of the Lord shall return again, and come rejoicing unto Zion. Gladness, gladness, gladness, joy everlasting; Joy upon their heads shall be; Joy and gladness, these shall be their portion, and tears and sighing shall flee from them. The redeem-ed of the Lord shall return again, and come rejoicing unto Zion. Gladness, gladness, gladness, joy upon their heads shall be, joy everlasting. Joy everlasting.
Mark 6:42 They all ate, and were filled.Continuing reading Mark against the stellar allegory, this text indicates that all the 5000 men/visible stars of the sky were seen in location against the regular orderly movement of the five loaves/planets and two fish/sun and moon around the field of grass/the path of the heavens. The fulfilment here is pleromatic – an eschatological vision of when God will be known as all in all. http://biblehub.com/greek/4138.htm notes that pleroma or fullness appears in the Mark 8 version of the miracle, and also in Colossians.
43 They took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and also of the fish.The twelve baskets represent the twelve months of the year, with the broken pieces representing the constantly changing angles between the positions of the planets.
44 Those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.Concluding this first of the six tellings of the miracle in the Gospels, the overall cosmic context is reaffirmed with the coded reference to the number of visible stars. The satiation of the miracle refers to the reconciliation of all things, or as the Paulines put it in the great hymn of cosmic praise at Colossians 1, the Son of his love is the image of the invisible God, by whom were all things created – all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him and through him to reconcile all things.
The slow wheeling of the heavens is the great measure of time, and can be studied to see the framework of cosmic reconciliation.
by Robert Tulip » Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:19 pm
Mark 6:52they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.Immediately after the loaves and fishes multiplication, Jesus miraculously walks on water, a story that concludes with this cryptic reference back to the loaves in verse 6:52. The point here is that the whole Jesus story is allegory for cosmic reconciliation, but most people are in a fallen alienated condition, and cannot understand the need to connect spirit and nature, which is what “understanding about the loaves” means.
This idea of connection between spirit and nature is the source of the authentic power of Christian faith as the hope of liberating cosmic transformation in love.The failure to understand about the loaves, ie the blindness to the allegorical meaning of the stories about Jesus as representing the sun and planets, produces hardness of heart, a wilful and cruel reinforcement of ignorant arrogance. Such hardness became the basis of church persecution of Gnostic vision, a syndrome which produced the dominant inverted religious pathologies that have come to see evil as good and good as evil.
The idea of cosmic reconciliation appears repeatedly in the Epistles with the Gnostic concept of pleroma or fullness. Texts such as Romans 8:21, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God”, and the ideas from Colossians 1 about the reconciliation through the eternal logos or natural order, indicate a message within the Bible that salvation is about harmony with nature, whereas damnation is about alienation from nature. This is most vividly explained in the verse Revelation 11:18 which says the wrath of God is against those who destroy the earth.
The overall theme of cosmic reconciliation is central to the idea that the world had moved onto a new cosmic axis at the time of Pilate, seen in the shift of the equinoxes into the signs of the loaves and fishes in 21 AD. Against the broad ancient cosmology, this axial movement marked an incarnational moment of cosmic harmony, the only point in all history at which the seasons and the stars were aligned. Unfortunately you have to have some understanding to comprehend this, and what Mark calls hardness of heart makes it simply impossible for most people to understand.
An intense repressive hostility to cosmic comprehension is presented as the introduction to the loaves and fishes parable, with Salome asking for the death of the lead Gnostic in preference to Herod’s offer of temporal power. This psychological analysis of cultural polarisation remains pertinent today to the intense blindness to the natural scientific meaning of Biblical texts.
Ancient Knowledge of Precession of the Equinoxes?While we’re here let me cite a couple of scholarly responses to David Ulansey’s argument that it was the ancient discovery of the precession of the equinoxes that led to the upsurge of the Roman Mithraistic cult and that may also have had significance for the rise of Christianity:On the ancient knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes:
Roger Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire, 2006:
Beck refers to Swerdlow’s criticism of Ulansey’s theory with this caveat (p. 33):This hypothesis about the design and composition implies that the designers knew the then very ‘recherche’ fact that the equinoxes do indeed slowly shift position, the so-called precession of the equinoxes. Very few serious scholars either of the Mithraic mysteries or of the history of astronomy have accepted Ulansey’s theory.My own view (Beck 2004 c :243–4) is that, wrong though the theory is, this much can be said for it: had you explained precession to a Mithraic Father and pointed out that the torch bearers, the scorpion, and the bull could be related to the equinoxes of an earlier era, he would have gratefully added it to his portfolio of explications. Simply as a matter of star-talk syntax, the archaic equinoxes were and are potentially present as meanings in the composition of the tauroctony.What makes it extremely improbable that precession was ever elicited as a meaning, let alone deliberately encoded in the tauroctony as a ‘plumbed-in’ meaning, is the need to postulate Mithraists or Ur-Mithraists with the requisite knowledge. Nothing in the reception-history of the astronomical theory of precession suggests that such people ever existed. Since one can account for Mithraism’s esoteric quartering without invoking them, they serve no useful function and are best dismissed. (p. 217, my own formatting throughout)
From N.M. Swerdlow’s review of Ulansey in Classical Philology, 86, 1, 1991Swerdlow is a distinguished historian of astronomy, and his particular target, David Ulansey (1989), had the temerity to propose that the tauroctony encoded one of ancient astronomy’s most important and highly technical discoveries, the ‘precession of the equinoxes’. On the limited question of precession I agree with Swerdlow against Ulansey.
The other point concerns Hipparchus’ discovery of the precession and whatever might have been made of it in Tarsus or any place else. The earliest surviving writer so much as to mention the precession is Ptolemy in the mid-second century, about three hundred years after Hipparchus. Ulansey may say the centuries intervene because the discovery was kept a deep dark secret reserved for adepts of the cult of Mithras or Perseus, but that is simply ridiculous.=====================
Aside from the vagaries of the survival of writings on astronomy before Ptolemy, whose work made that of his predecessors on the whole obsolete, it is most likely that the precession was not mentioned for three hundred years because Hipparchus’ description was so tentative, and so uncertain of what his observations showed, that no one paid any attention to it until Ptolemy demonstrated that it really existed.
Even then, Proclus, who lived fully three centuries after Ptolemy and is the only philosopher to my knowledge to take note of the precession, denied it because he thought it undetectable and contradicted by the appearances it would, he said, make the Bears partially set below the horizon and because all wise men agreed that the fixed stars have only a single motion about the pole of the world, the diurnal rotation, and none about the pole of the ecliptic. In short, what was good enough for Plato was good enough for Proclus.
And Ptolemy, who (like Proclus) was personally a devoted believer in the divinity of the heavenly bodies and the efficacy of astrological divination, treats the precession purely astronomically, for nowhere does he so much as hint at any religious or astrological implications. Did he know he was giving away a great mystery? Was he perhaps doing it on purpose? Had everyone forgotten the true significance of the precession? Was Proclus trying to put the cat back into the bag? The questions are too absurd to deserve an answer.
Now Hipparchus’ treatment of the precession was not at all straightforward and was hardly such as would have suggested the need for a new cosmic deity. If anything, until a few hundred years had passed, in which the evidence for a motion of the stars with respect to the equinoxes became stronger, it would have suggested above all the possibility of observational error, which Hipparchus himself feared. All that is known of Hipparchus’ study of what we now call the precession is contained in Almagest 3. 1 and 7. 1-3, and it is evident from Ptolemy’s account that it was highly technical, highly tentative, and offered more than one explanation for rather discrepant observations that did not necessarily indicate anything like a motion of the entire sphere of the fixed stars with respect to the equinoxes. (p. 59, my bolding)