We gain tremendous power by understanding the truth about the past and the present. The truth does set us free from ignorance and suicidal acquiescence to present policies which are destroying the very fabric of our culture.
We'll examine what actually happened in the time called "the Dark Ages" -- nullifying the false histories of Christian apologists who would have us believe that this era of retrogression was caused solely by the "heathen barbaric hordes." As more honest historians such as Gibbons have discovered, the Dark Ages was largely brought on by the corruption of a counterfeit Christianity.
As is made clear in my recently published book The Perennial Tradition, only a few persons associated with Jesus of Nazareth truly understood his message. Paul had experienced Jesus in a mystical encounter. Peter and other of the disciples completely misunderstood Jesus' intentions, turning their brand of Christianity into a neo-Judaism, requiring converts to undergo circumcision and follow the Jewish law.
The true dissemination of Jesus' teaching proceeded with Paul, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Marcion, Valentinus, and others, while the so-called apostles began to turn Christianity into a sacerdotal religion of dogma and ritual.
Within a few years, the leaders of what was called the Christian church were nothing more than bosses of vicious gangs who murdered their rivals for power and position. We can trace the rapid degeneration of these so-called Christians, as they helped to destroy the Roman Empire and plunge the Western world into the Dark Ages.
In 198 CE a cleric named Zephyrinus became Bishop of one of the Christian factions in Rome. During Zephyrinus's long tenure as Bishop from 198 - 217 CE, factional rivalry in the city became endemic. A group of soothsayers led by Montanus built a strong following, even among the bishop's own followers, and a third group, led by Sabellius, rejected ridiculous dogmas that were being put forward.
Zephyrinus was succeeded as "Christian" Bishop by a young man named Callistus. As a youth, Callistus had been the slave of a Christian master named Carpophorus, a freedman in the imperial household. Callistus had stolen funds collected by fellow-Christians for the care of widows and orphans. When Callistus tried to make a run for it, he was apprehended aboard a ship in the port of Portus. He was imprisoned and forced to work on a hand-mill. After being released, Callistus was arrested again, this time because of a brawl in a synagogue where he had tried to extract money from a group of Roman Jews.
Dragged before city prefect Fuscianus, Callistus was denounced by Carpophorus and sentenced to a penal colony, the silver mines of Sardinia. But during his checkered career, Callistus had somehow gained friends in high places. He had been a "counselor" to Bishop Victor and also a friend of a certain Marcia, a concubine of Emperor Commodus, the dissolute son of Marcus Aurelius. Marcia had been "brought up" by the presbyter Hyacinthus before being passed on to Commodus. This young "Christian" woman named Marcia was party to the conspiracy that ultimately strangled Commodus.
During his reign as Roman Emperor, Diocletian had divided the empire into the eastern and western provinces. In 306 CE, on the death of the western Augustus (province ruler), Constantius I, his son Constantine quickly claimed his father's throne. Constantine wanted to seize power in the east as well as the west, and he saw the Christian cult as the means to his goal.
The Christians constituted only about five per cent of the total population of the Roman Empire, but they were concentrated in enclaves in the key cities of the east. The eastern Christians were an organized cult of fanatics, in many cities holding important positions in state administration. Some held posts even within the imperial entourage. The main body of the church confronted the Roman State as a "Republic within the Republic," with its own treasury, laws, magistrates and command structure.
The ambitious thug-ruler of the west, Constantine, realized that he could use the "Christian" fanatics and their hierarchical structure, as part of his plan to become Emperor of a united Rome. He declared Christianity as the official religion of his regime. By championing the cause of the Christians, Constantine put himself at the head of a "fifth column" in the eastern province, through which he was able to seize power.
By 330 CE Constantine had taken control of both the western and eastern provinces and declared himself supreme Caesar over all of the Roman Empire. He appointed one of the rival "Christian" chieftains Lucius Lactantius as his official Latin theologian, propagandist, and tutor to his son Crispus. Lactantius soon lost the job of tutor when Constantine had his son murdered for adultery with his stepmother. Lactantius praised Constantine as "a model of Christian virtue and holiness" (De Mortibus Persecutorum).
Among many other insane policies that Constantine enacted--leading to the fall of the Roman Empire--was that of disbanding the praetorian guard and replacing them with a special imperial guard, an elite cavalry regiment of 500 soldiers, mainly Germans. This left Rome essentially defenseless, and within a century the Visigoths were sacking Rome and other imperial cities.
abolished security by removing the greater part of the soldiery from
the frontiers to the cities that needed no auxiliary forces. He thus
deprived of help the people who were harassed by the barbarians and
burdened tranquil cities with the pest of the military, so that several
straightway were deserted. Moreover he softened the soldiers, who
treated themselves to shows and luxuries. Indeed (to speak plainly) he
personally planted the first seeds of our present devastated state of
In 380 CE, Christianity became the exclusive religion of the Roman Empire by an edict of the Emperor Flavius Theodosius. The Roman Empire was now a "Christian" theocracy. The corrupt "Christian" leaders were ecstatic at the prospect of being able to loot all the "pagan" temples and monuments. Ambrosius, bishop of Milan, began the destruction of pagan temples throughout his area. "Christian" priests led a vicious mob against the temple of the goddess Demeter in Eleusis and attempted to lynch the hierophants Nestorius and Priskus. The ninety-five year old hierophant Nestorius terminated the Eleusinian Mysteries and announced "the predominance of mental darkness over the human race."
From that time on, pagan temples throughout the Roman empire were torn down or refurbished as "Christian" churches. The fourth Church Council of Carthage in 398 CE prohibited everybody, including "Christian" bishops, from studying pagan (non-Christian) books--on penalty of death. Illiteracy became official Christian policy. Roman society by the fifth century was becoming ever more rigid and hierarchical, with eroding social and geographic mobility and an immense and widening gulf between rich and poor. Rome's urban middle class was being taxed out of existence, freedmen were being confined in indentured labor and slavery and the soldiery was being reduced to a peasant-farmer militia.
In Alexandria in 415 CE, a "Christian" mob, incited by the bishop Cyril, attacked a few days before the Judeo-Christian Pascha (Easter) and cut to pieces the famous and beautiful female philosopher Hypatia. 1 The "Christian" mob carried pieces of her body through the streets of Alexandria, finally burning her remains together with her books in a place called Cynaron.
In 429 CE depraved "Christian" mobs sacked the world-famous Parthenon, the temple of the goddess Athena on the Acropolis of Athens. From 440 to 450 CE, the "Christians" demolished all the monuments, altars and temples of Athens, Olympia, and other Greek cities.
Roman emperor Theodosius II in 448 CE ordered all non-Christian books to be burned. In 529 CE emperor Justinian ordered the Platonic Academy in Athens closed and its property confiscated. The bonfires set by Christian zealots reduced the science of a millennium to ash. In the new Christian tyranny all scientific thought which contradicted the Bible was suppressed. If rationality and observation contradicted the "revealed Word of God" then it was rationality and the observer who were in error.
"For the Christian, it is enough to believe that the cause of all things, whether in heaven or on earth, whether visible or invisible, is nothing other than the goodness of the Creator."Ammianus Marcellinus, Rome's last great historian (died in 395 CE) lamented that
Augustine, Enchiridion, 3.9
"Those few buildings which were once celebrated for the serious cultivation of liberal studies, now are filled with ridiculous amusements of torpid indolence. . . The libraries, like tombs, are closed forever."The "Christian" church had no interest in preserving the Roman Empire; it now had its own empire to build. As the Roman Empire crumbled, career opportunities now lay exclusively within the hierarchy of the church and a Christianized state bureaucracy--for those few bright and privileged enough to be able to seek education. With the active cooperation of the imperial court the Church had seized complete control over education and now restricted instruction to potential priests. Initially, rhetoric and grammar remained in the syllabus but knowledge which did not serve the purposes of the Church was suppressed.
Some classic writers such as Homer (in whose work Christians saw allegories), Plato and Aristotle (philosophies which were said to have "anticipated" Christianity), and some poetic and rhetorical works (Juvenal, Ovid and Horace) were seen as useful as teaching aids. But Christian hostility to general learning and practical knowledge was so pervasive that access to scripture itself was forbidden to any lay-person who might happen to be literate.
Preoccupied with ceremonial and propagandistic pageants, within a few generations most priests could not even read the Bible. Ritual had replaced reading, iconography had replaced language. The scientific method--empirical observation and the testing of hypotheses--had no place in an age in which eternal truth was made known to man by the revealed Word of God. In the Christian world-view, "Nature" was now seen as the domain of evil, not a realm worthy of respect and exploration.
As Roman Catholicism led humankind into a mindless life of obedience to its dogmas and leaders, the light of human intelligence began to go out. Christendom lost the art of brick and tile making, of bridge building and public sanitation. A despotic theocracy did not want people to think or to examine the world about them.
One of the major parts of pseudo-history created by Christian propagandists, is the myth that Christianity won over the barbaric hordes to Christ. We are given the unbelievable image of the heroic priest, armed only with his Bible and Christian courage, who subdues the savage warriors with homilies from the Good Book.
Barbarian groups became "Christian" whenever their chiefs felt it was to their advantage to take on the nominal title of Christian. Power in a barbarian clan was fragile and leadership changed often and violently. Barbarian tribes raided neighboring territories out of military and economic necessity, By acquiring "prestige goods"--such as slaves, jewelry, gold pieces, fine weapons, Christian titles--the barbarian ruling elite preserved its rule and raised its social status. Success at raiding strengthened the link between a chief and his warriors.
From the third to the fifth centuries, the barbarian tribes migrated constantly; territories were ill-defined, ever-changing, tribal alliances were continuously made and remade, and warriors of the same tribe fought both for and against the Romans.
Contact with leaders of the Roman Empire--both civil and religious--brought prestige to tribal chieftains. They saw the Roman Empire as everything barbarian society was not: stable, universal, and eternal. By emulating Roman characteristics the barbarian aristocracy gained a semblance of "civilization" and power.
"Every Goth wishes to be like a Roman, " said Theodoric, "but only the humblest Roman wants to be like a Goth."
So strong was barbarian desire to establish a "Roman" legitimacy for their new kingdoms that the illiterate Charlemagne, centuries later, styled himself "King of Franks and Lombards and Patrician of the Romans." He was crowned Emperor and Augustus.
Once a warrior king embraced "Christianity"--an adoption of form and formality with basically no regard to content--the warrior aristocracy followed its king. Thus, for example, when Clovis accepted Christ as his new god, he compelled 3,000 of his retainers to follow him into the baptismal font. Among the common tribesmen religious allegiance was not an issue of conscience. This was not an age of individual opinion or preference. When the tribal leadership adopted a new god the tribe followed suit. Not to have done so would have been tantamount to rebellion. When Charlemagne insisted on baptism as the sign of submission, he punished with appalling barbarity any resistance, as when, in cold blood, he beheaded, in a single day, 4,500 Saxons at Verden, in 782 CE.
The barbarian kings sought marriage into the Roman imperial bloodlines. And they wanted Roman patricians in their entourage, men who could advise them in the governance of their newly acquired lands and peoples. Everywhere, the indigenous "Romans" outnumbered their warrior overlords. The outstanding example is the court of Theodoric, Ostrogothic king of Italy. His administration was modeled on that of his imperial predecessors and was staffed by Romans. Among "men of letters" at his court was Aurelius Cassiodorus, senator, statesman, monk and writer. As the local "statesmen," the pseudo-Christian Bishops "spoke" for the native people and served as "administrators" of cities and districts on behalf of the barbarian king. Theodoric's reign can best be judged by his vicious murder of Boethius, with the collaboration of his "Christian" advisers.
Thus arose the Dark Age elite--a fusion of ex-pagan chiefs who were in awe of all things Roman (including its Christianity), and degenerate Roman landowners who survived by foisting Christianity on superstitious tribesmen. The very heart of this veneer of legitimizing romanitas was the pseudo-Christian religion by which the emperors had legitimized and made "divine" their own rule. Hence the rise of the Christian bishops and in particular the Bishop of Rome--the custodian of the corpse of the empire and self-styled bestower of its legacy.
With his book of Christian spells and the inheritance of more than a thousand years of Roman "gravitas" behind him, the patrician-bishop easily swayed the untutored mind of a barbarian king.
As well as "Christ magic" (salvation through mere belief in the "founder" of the Roman church, Christ) the head of the Roman church offered "legitimacy" and the power of the written word as a kingly imprimatur. With his help, an upstart king's authority could now be proclaimed everywhere. With bribes and baubles, he gained access; he took on the role of ambassador and agent; he lent support to one side against another in fratricidal conflict; he advised; he provided "virgin brides" and officiated at royal weddings and ceremonials; he governed the locals on behalf of his barbarian overlord.
Through it all, the wealth and authority of the "Christian" leader grew. And the nonsense he peddled - pseudo-Christianity - became official dogma. Before the closing years of the fifth century the Christian Church showed no interest in converting barbarians. God, it seems, had chosen the Roman Empire to spread his Word. Yet when the fierce tribesmen arrived at the city gates, that event was "God's Judgement" and the Christian bishops were all too ready to abandon the empire and throw in their lot with the invader.
Despite the "3-day wonder" of the sack of Rome in 410 CE by the Visigoths, it was Gaul that was in dire straits in the fifth century, not Italy (which enjoyed a late 'Indian summer' under its Gothic king.) In the late fifth century, Salian Franks under Clovis began three centuries of expansion by absorbing the other Frankish tribes. In 486 CE Clovis defeated the Roman general Syagrius and the last Gallo-Roman region of Gaul--Soissons--was overrun. Subjugation of the Thuringians and Bavarians followed.
The Franks were a heathen German tribe, almost the only one untouched by Arianism (the belief that Jesus was not a God), spreading from the east. While the primitive Franks continued to give homage to their old Germanic gods, other, more Romanized, tribes had adopted Arian Christianity as a "national" religion.
Backward and barbarous they may have been but for the beleaguered Catholic bishops the Franks were the great hope. In the Franks, the papal agents found a fierce but malleable tribe and they spared nothing to bring the Frankish overlords under their sway. The dominion of the Franks in the west ensured the triumph of Roman Catholicism.
The "conversion" of Clovis was a crucial event, comparable to the "conversion" of Constantine--and equally surrounded by the same fanciful mythology. Clovis's conversion, like Constantine's, was no "inward experience of grace" but was a military matter. He was convinced that victory in battle lay in the gift of the god of the Christians. Christ for him was a talismanic war god.
According to the myth, in 496 CE, after a close call against the Alamanni, the day had been "saved" by a prayer either from Clovis himself, or the Catholic Bishop Gregory of Tours (or maybe both). A grateful Clovis took baptism to become the first "Catholic" ruler in the west. Of course, he had been softened up somewhat by marriage in 493 CE to a Catholic princess, the Burgundian Clotilda, put forward as his bride "on account of her beauty and wisdom" (and no doubt her Catholicism). Clovis, like Constantine a century and a half earlier, was also aware of the political advantage of posing as a liberator of "those oppressed by religious heresy."
"It grieves me," he said, "to see that the Arians possess the fairest portion of Gaul. Let us march against them, vanquish the heretics, and share out their fertile lands."In 507 CE Clovis took Aquitaine from the weak Visigothic king Alaric II, and then subjugated Burgundy. Both areas were forcibly converted to Catholicism--to the delight of the local bishops. At Clovis' death in 511 CE, Clotilda went into a monastery at Tours where she stayed until her death in 545 CE. It can be no surprise that a grateful Roman Catholic Church made her a saint. The weakened and demoralized Roman troops who remained on the frontiers were re-grouped into small units of 1,000 men (compared to 5,000 of the former legions), with limited cavalry support under the command of a "dux." These small detachments were stationed in hill-top forts, where, essentially they avoided any engagement with an enemy they were not expected to defeat.
Training for these demoralised and irregularly paid troops seriously declined. Expensive body armour was abandoned, and simple leather caps replaced the iron helmet. Under such conditions, traditional Roman infantry tactics, driven by harsh discipline and constant training, simply disappeared. The luckless frontier troops, dependent upon payment in rations and only the occasional cash bonus, degenerated into a peasant militia, spending more time in growing food than on the parade ground.
Europe languished in intellectual and cultural retrogression during the Middle Ages, while the light of wisdom was preserved and advanced by those they labeled "the infidel Saracen." The reintroduction of the Classical (Greek) Tradition and the Perennial Tradition through the confluence of European and Muslim thought, beginning around 1000 CE, revitalized earlier conceptions of knowledge as derived from experience--participation in reality.
As d'Alembert states in his introduction to the French Encyclopedia,
"most of the great minds during those dark ages . . . were preoccupied with a thousand frivolous questions about abstract and metaphysical being instead of thoroughly investigating Nature or studying man."
1 During her lifetime, Hypatia was one of the world's leading scholars in mathematics and astronomy. Her knowledge, modesty, and public speaking ability were legendary. Hypatia taught in Alexandria during the era of the Great Library in that city. Hypatia helped to develop the astrolabe, an instrument used to determine earth location by measuring relationships between heavenly bodies. She taught: "Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all. To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing." ...read more