About Renée

Renée Spencer is a community mental health practitioner with experience and training in teaching, counseling, art therapy, and psychology. She has a passion for Art, history, mythology, and philosophy. Renee's particular interests lie in investigating symbolism and how metaphors, similes, and allegories can be interpreted in different cultures, timeframes, and contexts.

5 Amazing Soul Theories from Ancient Cultures Explained

According to Plato, debating the nature of the human soul was the most popular topic amongst philosophers. A comparison of some of the soul theories that were around during his era explains why. Different schools of thoughts and religious cults had vastly contrasting ideas about spiritual matter and what happened to it after a physical body died. To get a snapshot, the following is a brief rundown of how Hindu, Egyptian, Hebrew, Persian, and Greek cultures define the soul, or parts thereof, followed by an explanation of their afterlife beliefs.

Hindu Soul Theory

  1. Anandmaya Kosha – Physical/food sheath (Also known Stuka Sarira)
  2. Pranamaya Kosha – Vital breath or energy Sheath (Also known as Suksma Sarira and works in unison with Manomaya Kosha)^
  3. Manomaya Kosha – Mental/Mind Sheath (Also known as Suksma Sarira and works in unison with Pranamaya Kosha)^
  4. Vigyanmaya Kosha – Wisdom Sheath (Also known as Karana Sarira; a combination of the above 3 aspects)
  5. Annmaya Kosha – Bliss/Joy Sheath
  6. Atman – Higher self / Divine spark

^ The Suksma Sarira consists of Sravandipanchakam (five sense organs); Vagadipanchakam (five organs of action); Pranapanchakam (five-fold vital breath); and Manas & Buddhi (mind, intellect, and wisdom).

Hindu Afterlife

Hinduism is arguably the oldest religion still practiced today. Therefore, we have the most detailed understandings of its complexities.

Hindu reincarnation beliefs are extensive and subject to variation between sects. To put them simply, basically the Anandmaya, Pranamaya, and Manomaya (Stuka Sarira and Suksma Sarira) are required to go through a series of lives as plants, animals, and people, in order to learn lessons; once this has been accomplished the cycle of death and rebirth is no longer necessary. Upon graduating, all aspects of a person’s soul are purified, therefore able to rejoin Brahman, the Divine Creator, whom every living thing is part of its Atman essence.

Upon death of the physical body, Hinduism believes it’s best to cremate the corpse to help release its soul.

Egyptian Soul Theory

  1. Khat or Kha – Physical Body
  2. Ba – Personality
  3. Ren – True Name
  4. Ka – Vital Essence
  5. Shuyet – Shadow 
  6. Jb – Heart
  7. Akh or Ikhu – Immortal Self
  8. Sahu – Judge and Spiritual Body
  9. Sechem or Sekhem – Life Energy

Egyptian Afterlife

There are still many mysteries surrounding Ancient Egyptian beliefs. However it appears very evident they believed that in order for the ank (immortal self) to live in the after world, the physical body had to remain intact – through mummification. This is the polar opposite of the Hindu attitude towards the physical body and its relationship to soul/spirit matter.

Upon death, Egyptians believed a soul (composed of Ka, Shuyet, and Jb) would be judged against a feather of Maat (truth and justice). A heavy heart meant instant annihilation by Ammit, the devourer of souls. Harmonious balance was recorded by Thoth (scribe of the underworld) and ensured the immortal soul’s journey into Sekhet-Aaru, a heavenly plane of existence.

To keep the spirit alive, remembering the person’s true name was important. Conversely, pharaohs who displeased their citizens could have their names wiped from all records.

Persian (Zoroastrian) Soul Theory

  1. Bodily matter and sensation
  2. Physical frame and nervous system
  3. Skeleton and muscles
  4. Life energy
  5. Astral body
  6. Ethereal substance
  7. Link between sensation and soul
  8. Inner soul
  9. Divine spark

Persian (Zoroastrian) Afterlife

Zoroastrianism was almost completely wiped out when Muslims conquered Persia (current day Iran and Iraq) during the seventh century. Some fled to India by boat and their decedents still practice the religion. Ironically, there is also speculation that Zoroastrian beliefs have ancient connections to the Vedas (sacred text of Hindus).

Zoroastrians believe the nine parts of the soul work in unison while a person is alive. After death, the first six disintegrate into the earth sphere (the physical matter of layers 1-3) and astral sphere (soul matter of layers 3-6). It is only the three spiritual layers that are immortal and go onto to heaven or hell.

Zoroastrian’s neither bury, mummify, or cremate the dead. A deceased person is considered to be unclean in both a physical and soul sense. Therefore, corpses are handled as little as possible. Traditionally, they were left out in the open for vultures, wild animals, and environmental elements to hasten decomposition processes.

Mourners believe the deceased person’s spirit remains near the body for three days, before crossing over a bridge and is judged by its conscience to be either good or evil. The verdict determines whether an inner soul goes to heaven or hell.

Zoroastrian prophecies say that an apocalypse will one day wipe the universe of everything, including hell, thus redeeming all souls. This occurrence precedes the ushering in of a golden era of paradise.

Hebrew (Kabbalah) Soul Theory

  1. Nefesh – Breath or  material principle of vitality/life, the lowest level of consciousness
  2. Ruaḥ – Divine Spirit/Wind – vitality / with strong emotions 
  3. Neshamah – Breath/conscious life or Godliness, the conceptual grasp of the intellect

Other Soul Aspects:

  • Chayah – Life, Divine Energy, an aspect of the soul  
  • Yechiday – Singularity, Oneness, Holy One, corresponds to the level of soul called Adam Kadmon

Hebrew (Kabbalah) Afterlife

Judaism began in Mesopotamia around the same time as Zoroastrianism. There is no conclusive evidence to say which religion came first.

In Judaism, the Hebrews views of what happens to the soul in the afterlife is nuanced. The general belief is that a soul remains near its body for twelve months, then goes onto a purgatory of sorts, called Sheol. However, there are some references to hell- and heaven-like dimensions.

Overall, Ancient Jews considered life on earth to be more important than life after death. Some scholars speculate this is because they were held captive by Egyptians for an extended period of time, hence, became opposed to focusing exorbitant amounts of energy on death (like mummification rituals).

The Jewish faith includes a belief that in the future, after a messianic era, all souls will be resurrected. It is unclear whether this resurrection will redeem all souls or just the righteous. This theory has some likeness to the Zoroastrian’s apocalypse prophecy.

Resurrection in the Hebrew sense means a revival of the dead, and is not the same as incarnation or reincarnation. It basically means souls exist in a kind of nothingness (no sorrow, no joy, no feelings at all) until such a time that G-d determines is right for the renewal. Whether or not this resurrection is purely spiritual or physical is debatable. During the first century, Pharisees argued that it would be a bodily resurrection, whereas Sadducees claimed it would be spiritual.

Greek Soul Theory

  1. Irrational soul – Sentience and Emotion
  2. Rational soul – Nous and/or Intelligence
    • The Ego – an individual’s expression of their irrational and rational soul
    • Celestial Fire – Godly or Supreme intelligence that humans (in particular males) could aspire to and/or existed outside of the human soul.

Greek Afterlife

It is from the writings of Aristotle that some of the clearest descriptions Greek thought relating to the concepts of the irrational and rational soul have been passed down through time. Overall, these present a very misogynistic view in which women were said to have a more inferior (irrational) soul substance compared to men who had more rational soul substance, like God, therefore men were closer to being divine than women.

However, Aristotle’s beliefs were not universal; albeit they appear to be synchronous with the sociopolitical agendas of the Greek Classical period. Beliefs of the afterlife in Ancient Greece were very varied in accordance to time, location, and various schools of philosophy that people subscribed to. For instance, some people consider Plato to be “revolutionary” for his suggestion that females have the same soul substances as males.

Overall, the Eleusinian mystery cult was the most popular belief system of the Classical Era; however, due to secret packs, it’s precise beliefs are open to speculation. The Homeric story of Persephone suggests souls go through cycles of death and rebirth: when Persephone is with her mother, Demeter, this is said to represent life on earth, and when she is with her husband, Hades, this represents death. The story mirrors the agriculture cycle of crops through the seasons, and it has links to the theology of four elements of earth, water, air, and fire.

Whether or not contemporary evaluations of Eleusinian beliefs are accurate is a matter of opinion. However, what is beyond speculation is that some initiates remarked that once they had partaken in certain rituals they no longer feared death, thus suggesting near-death experiences may have been induced.

The references to potential beliefs in reincarnation in Ancient Greek are no where near as detailed and concise as what is known about Hinduism. It appears that while some people, like Plato, believed in an immortal soul, others favoured the view of souls travelling to the underworld of Hades or joining the gods and goddesses in the Olympus heavens. Or as Socrates put it, some Greeks wondered if perhaps death was just a long sleep, and who doesn’t enjoy a good nap.

Summary of Soul Theories

As I’ve said elsewhere, a generalisation of the ancient belief systems is that humans have a soul substance that is directly linked to the physical body, and a distinctively different spirit body that is a mediator between the soul and the divine. However, it is prudent not to assume such similarities are indicative of some universal truth. Upon closer exceptions, each ideology has elements of uniqueness that sets them apart from others.

*Khat or Kha 
*Bodily matter & sensation
*Physical frame & nervous system
*Skeleton and muscles

*Life energy
*Astral body
*Ethereal substance

*Irrational soul
*Akh or Ikhu
*Sechem or Sekhem
*Link between sensation & soul
*Inner soul
*Divine spark
*Rational soul
For comparison purposes only, not a comprehensive analysis of terminology or soul and spirit qualities.

Closing Remarks

Broadly speaking, once a person dies, most ideologies follow beliefs that indicate “lower” soul substance/s disintegrate within the earth’s atmosphere, like leaves on the ground. While the “higher” spirit aspects of a person is considered to be immoral, (often described as being of a substance like a great cosmic Creator/God), therefore journeys to another plan of existence. However, this framework is not universal, as noted in Hinduism in which “soul” substances are believed to require advancement so as they can develop into a “spirit” state.

The similarities and unique features of beliefs surrounding the human soul/spirit and what happens to it in the afterlife through different ideologies is remarkable. It is little wonder that philosophers of all eras have been enthralled by debating the possibilities.

Christianity …

In regards to Christian theories of the human soul and the afterlife, that’s a prickly subject I’m saving for a blog of its own.

Reference list

Arab America. (2019). Nine Parts of the Human Soul According to the Ancient Egyptians. [online] Available at: https://www.arabamerica.com/nine-parts-of-the-human-soul-according-to-the-ancient-egyptians/.

BBC (2023). Cycle of birth and death – The nature of human life in Hinduism – GCSE Religious Studies Revision – AQA. [online] BBC Bitesize. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zmgny4j/revision/3#:~:text=In%20Hinduism%2C%20all%20life%20goes.

Das, S. (2016). The Hindu Concept of Three Bodies – Body, Mind and Existence | Sanskriti – Hinduism and Indian Culture Website. [online] Available at: https://www.sanskritimagazine.com/hindu-concept-three-bodies-body-mind-existence/

(2014). Panchkosha: The 5 layers of a human being | Sanskriti – Hinduism and Indian Culture Website. [online] Available at: https://www.sanskritimagazine.com/panchkosha-5-layers-human/.

Funeral Partners (2021). Hindu Funeral Rites and Death Rituals. [online] Funeral Partners. Available at: https://www.funeralpartners.co.uk/help-advice/arranging-a-funeral/types-of-funerals/hindu-funeral-rites-and-death-rituals/.

Getty Museum. (n.d.). The Getty Museum. [online] Available at: https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/ancient_underworld/inner.html.

Habashi, F. (2000). ZOROASTER AND THE THEORY OF FOUR ELEMENTS. Bull. Hist. Chem, [online] 25(2). Available at: http://acshist.scs.illinois.edu/bulletin_open_access/v25-2/v25-2%20p109-115.pdf.

Hays, J. (n.d.). ZOROASTRIANISM | Facts and Details. [online] factsanddetails.com. Available at: https://factsanddetails.com/world/cat55/sub350/item1921.html.

Shaki, M. (n.d.). ELEMENTS IN ZOROASTRIAN RELIGION – (CAIS) ©. [online] http://www.cais-soas.com. Available at: https://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Religions/iranian/Zarathushtrian/elements_zoroastrianism.htm

http://www.encyclopedia.com. (n.d.). Soul: Jewish Concept | Encyclopedia.com. [online] Available at: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/soul-jewish-concept.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. (2008). Afterlife in Judaism. [online] Available at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/afterlife.

http://www.sivanandaonline.org. (n.d.). Atman is Distinct From the Five Koshas. [online] Available at: https://www.sivanandaonline.org/?cmd=displaysection&section_id=748 \.

The Symbolic Meaning Behind Adam and Chavah (Not Adam and Eve)

Open just about any Christian Bible and in the first few chapters you’ll be introduced to the characters Adam and Eve. Open a Hebrew Bible, on the other the other hand, and you’ll met Adam and Chavah. A rose called by any other name may smell sweet, but Eve is not as sweet as Chavah. The differences require a little digging into history; symbolism archeology, if you like.

Eve in English vs Chavah in Hebrew

In English, Eve’s etymology comes from the word evening, thus symbolises the impending darkness of the night. So too, Christian interpretations of Eve tend towards viewing her as a femme fatale who is responsible for Adam (the perfect male) falling into the darkness of sin.

The Jewish name Chavah literally means the mother of all life, which brings with it positive associations of nurturing, creativity, and the joy of living. When Chavah is united with her husband, Adam (humankind), the symbolic embodiment of the two represents human experience, for everyone whether they are male, female, or other.

Why the difference? Essentially, Christianity focuses on the physical while Judaism focuses on the metaphysical.

Christian Traditions of Eve

Historically, Christianity has taught that Adam and Eve were real people. In 1950 Pope Pius XII reiterated this belief and boldly stated: “the sources of revealed truth” support the doctrine of “original sin” which began in the garden of Eden “from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam”.

The idea of “original sin” stipulates that humans have a natural inclination to disobey God as evidenced by Adam and Eve. The doctrine was introduced into Christianity in the second century by the Church Father Irenaeus. It continued to be developed for centuries, thus in the 1200s, St Thomas Aquinas intensified attitudes of Eve’s role in the disobedience by drawing parallels between her and women’s so-called inferiority in general.

Essentially, because a woman ate an apple offered by a talking snake (which one must presume was also real if Adam and Eve were), then encouraged her partner to do the same, all generations have suffered ever since. The solution offered by Christian doctrines is Jesus:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Corinthians 15:22 

Just as Christ is described as being the New Adam, Mary is identified as the New Eve, albeit there are no clear Bible verses to say this.

Over the centuries, some Christian mystics who have attempted to suggest Adam and Eve are allegorical (like the Gnostics) have been declared heretics, excommunicated, faced inquisition trials, and subjected to forms of suppression.

Feminists have long argued that viewing women in the extremes of Eve – an evil woman who corrupted her man – and Mary – a virgin who dutifully followers instructions – is a construct of a patriarchal society, not God’s will.

In relatively recent history it would appear that God has heard the feminist message too, and has responded through Pope Francis. In a 2013 speech he shocked his audience by saying Adam and Eve were literary devices (like hell). Equally surprisingly were his comments: “We must recognise that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone.” While I’m not entirely sure what he meant by truth can change, I’ll take his words as being sentiments that indicate the Church is taking a few good first steps away from its patriarchal history.  

Eve in Psychoanalysis – Carl Jung

Carl Jung is founder of the theory of so-called universal symbolism and collective consciousness. He viewed ancient stories as being representative of psychological truths and attempted to prove this theory by comparing ancient texts. I have a certain amount of respect for Jung’s research (even though he once agreed with Freud that young children were capable of seducing adults into having sexual relationships with them). Overall, his research is impressive considering he conducted it without the aid of the internet.

Jung had many things to say on the topic of Adam and Eve, as an example:

… substance and matter divides into four, corresponding to the four elements […] From the mixing of the four parts there arose the devil, the “archon of this Aeon,” and the psyche of this world. […] God unfolds himself in the world in the form of syzygies (paired opposites), such as heaven/earth, day/night, male/female, etc. The last term of the first series is the Adam/Eve syzygy.

Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 2): Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, page 254

In my humble opinion, the above quote is typical of Jung blending half-truths with confirmation biases. The idea that “God” and the “psyche of this world” can be defined through polarities completely overlooks the capacity for limitless creativity that any Creator-Being and the creative functions of human mind can achieve; the making of symbolic references in mythology and folklore is a creative process, not a dogmatic process that is limited to syzygies of paired opposites.

Jung’s dichotomous approach to defining God’s role in the world is erroneous because it neglects the messy grey areas of being human. Despite this oversight, Jung’s recognition of the role the four elements played in ancient belief systems is commendable because this a point that many other researchers miss. Moreover, references to the four elements can be seen in the story of Adam and Eve, even though the main characters are not polarities.

Eve in Psychoanalysis – Jordan Peterson

As I’ve said before, the problem with Jungian psychoanalysis isn’t so much what he said, but how his theories have been interpreted and oversimplified by others. Jordan Peterson, who is sometimes referred to as a guardian of patriarchy and the stupid man’s smart person, is a classic example of someone who has failed to integrate principles of ancient theology into the reading of Biblical symbolism. For example, Peterson suggests that Eve, as a psychological archetype of real women, demonstrates a feminine disposition of making men feel self conscious:

“Now, no clear-seeing, conscious woman is going to tolerate an unawakened man. So, Eve immediately shares the fruit with Adam. That makes him self-conscious. Women have been making men self-conscious since the beginning of time. They do this primarily by rejecting them—but they also do it by shaming them, if men do not take responsibility”

Jordan Peterson

This insight is absolutely genius … if one ignores the fact that it can also be said that clear-seeing, conscious men can and do make unawakened women feel self conscious … and they have done so since the beginning of time … likewise men reject and shame women who do not take responsibility (for their behaviour, words, emotions, and so forth.)

Peterson, like Jung, uses confirmation biases. He views everything through the syzygies of opposites; chaos and order, masculinity and femininity. In a nutshell, his arguments are straw men.

While Adam is often denigrated, it is Eve who usually cops the most flack. From patriarchs, psychoanalysts, and clergy, her symbolism (as a real or mythological figure) is not favourable. Feminist attempts to revaluate the narrative have generated some smoke but not put out the fire.

Potentially, the most powerful counter arguments to the demoralising depictions of Adam and Eve, may come from Islamic scholars of the Dark Ages.

Adam and Eve in Islam

Sachiko Murata, author of The Tao of Islam, has extensively explored Muslim traditions of Adam and Eve as they are presented in the Koran. Murata’s research extends far back into Islamic history, with particular emphasis on Sufic mysticism. One of her references is the fourteenth century Persian, Mahmud Kashani, who eloquently describes Adam as being a representative of Universal Spirit and Eve a representative Universal Soul:

"Just as Adam's existence in the visible world is the locus of manifestation for the form of the Spirit in the unseen world, so also Eve's existence in the visible world is the locus of the manifestation for the form of the Soul in the unseen world."

This archetypal approach to understanding human psychology in an ancient narrative continues with the explanation that the marriage between Adam and Eve is symbolic of the whole human race:

... the existence of Adam and Eve is a transcription of the existence of the Spirit and the Soul. Moreover, in each human individual another transcription has been coped from the transcription of Adam and Eve's existence, ie., through the marriage of the particular spirit and the particular soul, the birth of the heart from these two. 

Murata notes that other Islamic scholars have said similar sentiments only they have used the terms “Intelligence” and “Soul”, for Adam and Eve respectively.

Gendered Languages

The original language of Genesis is Hebrew, and Hebrew is a gendered language in which all objects and concepts are referred to as being either male or female irrespective of features. Unlike some other gendered languages (Greek, German, and Italian), it does not have any neutral nouns. Missing this point could lead to misunderstanding Biblical imagery as being polarised by syzygies when it is only the language that is polarised, not the actual symbolism or ideas that are being expressed.

Adam, as a noun that is symbolic of Spirit, is potentially as masculine as a sock, house, or information. Likewise, Eve, as a noun that is symbolic of Soul, is potentially as feminine as a frying pan, notebook, or truth.

The Jewish Chavah

If only Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten that apple then humankind will have been saved from sin!

Alas, according to Hebrew traditions recorded in the Torah, the poisoned fruit that gave humans knowledge of good and evil is thought of as a fig, not an apple. It only became an apple in Christianity because the Romans, when translating the Bible during the fourth century, decided to “improve” it by adding a little pun: malus in Latin is a homophone that means both apple and evil. (The Word of God cannot escape literary codes and conventions.)

The change from Chavah to Eve, and fig to apple, signify deeper issues of how the original story of Adam and Eve has been modified when it transitioned from Judaism to Christianity.

The Jewish faith has both an oral and a written tradition. Orthodox Jews who follow the written version are prone to believing literal interpretations of Adam and Chavah, thus may adhere to similar assumptions that are in mainstream Christianity. In contrast, oral Torah traditions explain the narrative through a system more like the Sufic Islamics. Or more precisely, since Judaism came first, it is fairer to say, Islamic (and Christian) mysticism correlate with the oral traditions of Judaism.

Jewish Soul Theory

To understand how the symbolism of Adam and Chavah, it is useful to keep in mind the spiritual constitution of humans as described by Kabbalah:

  • Nefesh, Breath or  material principle of vitality/life, the lowest level of consciousness
  • Ruach, Divine Spirit/Wind – vitality / with strong emotions 
  • Neshama, Breath/conscious life or Godliness, the conceptual grasp of the intellect
  • Chaya, Life, Divine Energy, an aspect of the soul  
  • Yechida, Singularity, Oneness, Holy One, corresponds to the level of soul called Adam Kadmon

Genesis as an Allegory

Overall, the Book of Genesis can easily be understood as being an allegory of the spiritual evolution of humans before anyone was physically incarnated on the earth. Direct references to Jews interpreting Adam and Chavah as Spirit and Soul like in Sufism are scarce. Nevertheless, by going through the Bible verses, the theory can be substantiated. (Disclaimer: I’m not Jewish so my humble apologies in advance to my Jewish friends for any transgressions).

It begins in chapter 1 when we are told God created humans (in a spiritual dimension):

And God said, Let us make Adam^ in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

God created Adam in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:26-27

^ Adam is generally translated as "man" or "mankind" in English versions.

The above quote is indicative of humans of any gender being created in a spiritual dimension prior to being created in the physical. Additionally, it could be read as God being both male and female, therefore, humans are also both genders. A third explanation is that the passage is alluring to Adam’s first wife, Lilith, but I’m going to skim over this point in favour of focusing on Adam and Chavah.

Regardless of precise interpretation, the quote can be recognised as having inferences to the theory of the four elements of earth, water, wind, and fire. The first three are somewhat obvious: “the fish of the sea” (water), “the foul of the earth” (wind), and “the cattle” and “every creeping thing” upon the earth (earth). The fourth element, fire, is not so obvious. Arguable, by following the Jewish consideration of asking what is not said?, it can be implied that “Adam” is the representative of fire.

Fire is the most complex of the elements. It alludes to warmth, light and, like the sun, supports growth and life. Hence, “Adam” having “domination” over all other elements is a subtle signifier of this element.

In the next part of the story, we are told “Adam” is placed in a garden surrounded by rivers and is told to work and take care of this place:

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:10-15

The verse, once again, alludes to the elements. The most obvious being the element of water noted by the naming four rivers*. The element of earth is also presented by the commentary on gold, aromatic resin (a substance that flows from plants), and onyx (precious stone). If Adam is symbolic of fire, then the only element missing is wind.

In chapter 2 of Genesis we see the next step in the creation process whereby “Adam” is created a second time, on this occasion he is formed from dust, therefore suggesting a blending of the elements earth and fire.

Then the Lord God formed Adam^ from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

Genesis 2:7-8 

^ Representative of all humans, not only males. 

The components of a human become a little more challenging to interpret at this point. In addition to references to some of the elements, God’s breath of life is another piece that needs to be added to the puzzle. At the simplest level, this breath of life may be interpreted as the element of wind, although it could also be nefesh. Adam’s state of being in oneness with G0d he may also be viewed as being imbued with yechida. Thus, the simple theology of the four elements is complicated by other spiritual components.

The story then progresses to the creation of a woman who is made from the Adam:

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib (or other part of the body) he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

Genesis 2:22-23

It is important to note at this point in the narrative the “woman” is not Chavah. Rather, she is part of Adam that has domination over the elements of earth, water, wind, and fire, just like he does. By default she may also be considered as being endowed with nefesh and yechida. Arguably, her differences may be viewed as being the expressions of Ruach and Chaya, and she may be viewed as having an alignment with wind. Inadvertently she shares all her qualities with Adam, like he shares his qualities to her, as noted by them described as one flesh, ie., one body in a spiritual dimension:

That is why Adam^ leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

^ translated into English as "man"

The equality of the first man (Adam) and woman is emphasised by mystic schools of thoughts that suppose the man and woman described in Genesis are Universal Spirit and a Universal Soul. The union of Spirit and Soul is like two sides of the one coin, not polar opposites.

A crude analogy of Spirit making Soul is that of it being like the process of a kombucha scoby making kombucha brew. The kombucha scoby (Spirit) needs to be put in a different environment, one with water and sugar (the garden of Eden), in order to produce kombucha brew (Soul). A kombucha scoby contains all the same elements as a kombucha drink, and vice versa, but the two are different. Similarly, Universal Spirit and Universal Soul are the same, yet different. To say that a kombucha scoby is the polar opposite of kombucha brew is illogical, likewise it is illogical to say Spirit and Soul are polar opposites, they are to some degree exactly the same thing, only in different forms and each form compliments the other.

Back in the garden of Eden: the harmony of Spirit and Soul is interrupted by an intruding force, a snake who encourages them to eat from a forbidden tree:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened.

Genesis 3:1-7

Several points can be taken from the above passage:

  • the serpent was created by God
  • the temptation of the serpent is for Adam and Woman is to be like God
  • while it appears that serpent is only talking to the Woman, by this stage in the story she is one flesh with Adam, hence both aspects are present.
  • Adam does not stop the Woman from eating the fruit
  • Adam willingly followers the serpents temptation in his own right

Metaphorically, the story illustrates Adam and Woman being given free will, “the knowing of good and evil”. Despite the whole drama being set up by God, He curses all three of them, the serpent, Adam, and the Woman.

The tale appears brutal and harsh, however, as a result of these events, the Woman becomes Chavah, the mother of all living things:

Adam named his wife Chavah^, because she would become the mother of all the living.

Genesis 3:20

^ Eve in English translations

To reiterate: it is only through eating the forbidden fruit that the woman becomes Chavah, without the knowledge of good and evil she is not the mother of all living things. The same cannot said about Adam. In Genesis 2:15 were were told that Adam’s role in God’s plan was to look after the plants in the garden of Eden. This caretaker obligation does not change, only he is now cursed with having to manage the good and bad of all living things (Genesis 3:17-19).

It is made clear that all of these events take place in a spiritual dimension in the next passage when garments of skin are made for Adam and Chavah:

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21

The symbolism of Adam and Chavah as being metaphorical depictions of Universal Spirit and Soul illustrate a threefold nature of humans: body, soul, and spirit. Or as it is more commonly expressed in contemporary speech: body, soul, and mind (remembering: some scholars call the Universal Spirit, “Intellect”).

When God told Chavah “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16), it is indicative of humans (any gender) desiring to have their mind (intellectual spirit) rule over their soul (creativity impulses). It is not appropriate to reduce these concepts to order and chaos. Rather, it is more apt to view the functioning of the creative soul as desiring the aid of its partner, the intellect, to guide its limitless potential. If it were not to do so, the human experience may be likened to living in permanent state of psychosis.

Jewish cultures are far less likely to demonise real women based upon to the allegory of Adam and Chavah. While she is understood to be a protagonist, without her the “life” as we know it on earth would not exist.


Conformational biases, in which sexists and misogynist values are projected onto the story of Adam and Eve/Chavah have can have far reaching ramifications. It is also interesting to note that Christianity has a tradition of insisting humans only have one soul (more about this at a latter date), therefore, identifying Jewish theories of multiple souls in the Book of Genesis is hindered.

Over the centuries, mystics (from Christianity and Islam) who have attempted to challenge the status quo have been called heretics, brought before inquisition panels, and severely persecuted by other means.

And why has there not been more discussions about Jewish theology? Perhaps it is because they too have an extensive history of being persecuted.

The use of characters to personifications theological concepts in a narrative is not unique to Judaism. The Greeks used a similar strategy in their epic poetry about Zeus, Hera, Persephone, and Hades. Once this storytelling strategy is recognised, it appears odd when interpreters miss the underlying meanings that are being expressed because they don’t understand the symbolism.

* It may be noted that the rivers are earthly locations – Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates; the latter two still exist today and it is speculated that the former two were equally familiar to the writers of Genesis. This may be viewed as a normal storytelling device. Later in the Hebrew Bible, a location in Jerusalem called Gehinnom is symbolically referred to as an abode for the wicked when they are deceased. Therefore, following this line of thinking, it is reasonable to deduct that the rivers of Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates were also nonfiction.


Crispe, Sara Esther. “Chavah: Mother of All Life.” The Jewish Woman.org, http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/335943/jewish/Chavah-Mother-of-All-Life.htm.

Dolansky, Shawna. “The Immortal Myth of Adam and Eve – TheTorah.com.” Www.thetorah.com, 2015, http://www.thetorah.com/article/the-immortal-myth-of-adam-and-eve.

Mortenson, Terry. “In-Depth Look at Translation of Hebrew Word Adam.” Answers in Genesis, 2006, answersingenesis.org/adam-and-eve/in-depth-look-at-translation-of-hebrew-word-adam/. Accessed 11 Mar. 2023.

Murata, Sachiko. Masculine Feminine Complementarity in the Spiritual Psychology of Islam. 1989, http://www.academia.edu/27941952/Masculine_Feminine_Complementarity_in_the_Spiritual_Psychology_of_Islam.

My Jewish Learning. “The Written Torah and the Oral Torah.” My Jewish Learning, http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-formation-of-the-oral-torah/.

8 Traits of a Spiritual Narcissist

The spiritual narcissistic is literally too good to be true. They often don’t need to seek out prey because their victims are predisposed to high ideals and are actively seeking answers to existential questions. “Look no further!” the spiritual narcissistic exclaims: “I am just what you were looking for! The universe/God/Creator has predestined our meeting!” Their friendly charismatic facade hides their true nature; a devourer of souls. In order to avoid falling for this predator, being familiar with the following 8 traits can help save a lot of heartache.

Narcissism has become a familiar concept that requires little explanation. With an estimated 16% of the population being high on traits of grandiosity, superiority, entitlement, lack of empathy for others, and an extreme desire for attention, nearly everyone knows someone who fits the bill. People often come to learn about narcissism through subtle (or not so subtle) abuse dished out by an intimate partner, family member, or work colleague. Not so often recognised is the spiritual narcissistic, who cleverly disguises themselves as a “nice” or “good” person who is supposedly dedicated to a higher purpose.

You may meet the spiritual narcissistic at church, on a retreat, at a health and fitness seminar, or perhaps you were googling and stumbled upon their YouTube channel. The next thing you know, you’re mesmerised by their confidence and bedazzled by how they seem to know all the answers to life’s greatest challenges and mysteries.

Spiritual Narcissists vs Other Narcissists

The average spiritual narcissist may act arrogantly superior about their belief system being better than anybody else’s . In milder cases such attitudes can be overlooked, or even appreciated as passionate dedication to one’s faith. The real problems lie in spiritual narcissists who have full blown a personality disorder (around 5% of the population).

These individuals don’t just believe they are exceptional, they believe they have a divine right to manipulate and control others. They will torment anyone who dares to challenge their authority.

These charlatans could be a pastor, priest, yoga instructor, life coach, or someone who asserts they are empathetic to universal vibes. More often than not, they are the cult leaders, masters of high demand groups, and CEO’s of wellness businesses. Or if they don’t create their own kingdom to rule, they may seek out leadership roles at a prayer groups, local parishes, ashrams, or the alike.

In many respects, spiritual narcissists are superior to other forms, like those in domestic settings. Within a family unit, the narcissist’s objective is to control their partner, children, siblings, or parents. In other words, a relatively small group of people. But in groups that gather for spiritual intentions, the narcissist can have tens, hundreds, thousands, or even more, under their spell.

Identifying someone with this form of severe God complex from someone who is sincerely striving to express a wholesome form of spirituality is not always easy. The more traits they exhibit from the following list, the chances are they are high on the scale of spiritual narcissism.

1. Supremacy

Feelings and attitudes of supremacy are narcissistic hallmarks. In the case of the spiritual narcissistic, these qualities are beyond human. They don’t just believe they are better than everyone else, they believe a higher being has endorsed their superiority over others. They can be so deluded that they perceive their personal will and God’s will is one and the same. Rejection of the spiritual narcissist’s distorted self image is often met with rage because to deny their grandiosity is viewed as an act against the Almighty Himself.

Whoever is not supportive of their supremacy is considered to be against them; that is how narcissistic black and white thinking works.

2. Love Bombing

In romantic settings, narcissists are renowned for their love bombing and telling a person they just met there is a special bond between them. The allure of feeling like you’ve just met your soulmate can be strong. This person is so into you, so interested in everything you say, and wants to know every detail about your life. The spiritual narcissistic is no different, except they have multiple “soulmates”. 

As time goes on, the intimate details you trusted will be used against you. Your confessions may be recalled to evoke shame, and phrases you said in private taken out of context and used as slander.

3. Deception

From the outside, the appeal of the charismatic leader may appear odd, moreover, the signs of manipulation obvious. But to the insider, acts of deception are routinely dismissed.

For instance, I know of a cult leader who has a tendency to “accidentally” send emails containing intimidating material to group members, their families, and outside organisations. Recipients outside of the high demand group can usually see the correspondence is a farce, a deliberate attempt at bullying that could not be communicated through civil interactions.

A dead give away is that the “accidental” emails are calculated acts of passive aggression is that they are not followed up with any apology. Instead, this charlatan claims it was God’s will for the recipients to hear what they were saying behind someone’s back, hence the “accident” occurred through no fault of their own.

This individual won’t attempt to make any amends like a normal person would do if they genuinely accidentally sent an offensive email (narcissists are known for their inability to apologise). After all, why should they? This narcissistic believes they’ve been chosen by God, therefore, any act of deception can be excused under the guise that “God works in mysterious ways”.

People dedicated to a spiritual narcissist are more easily fooled. Through grooming processes their critical thinking skills are dulled to a point in which they will accept extreme versions of reality that their leader dictates to them

The deception can take many forms. Regardless of the faith or ideology a spiritual narcissist claims to be an expert on, they will embellish truisms with unprovable evidence. For example, insisting there is a paradise filled with virgins awaiting all true believers in the afterlife, or that a spaceship is ready to beam up a select few earthlings before an impending apocalypse. While it may be true that something along those lines could be inferred from books that are considered sacred by some, there is no evidence that spiritual narcissist’s interpretations are accurate.

Failure to accept forms of deception are usually met with treats.

4. Threats

In domestic violence, the narcissist may keep their victims trapped by threatening to take away their children, harming pets, or physical abuse. In work situations, the narcissist may threaten public humiliation, loss of a promotion, or unrealistic performance measures. The spiritual narcissist uses divinity as their greatest threat by telling their victims things like bad karma is going to come their way or they’ll spend an eternity in hell if they don’t follow their precise directions.

Conversely, the spiritual narcissist will guarantee bliss in the afterlife in exchange for willing submission to their every whim because, after all, they’re supposedly Divine Authority on earth.

The impact of fear tactics is that victim’s higher order thinking (cognitive functions) are gradually depleted. Instead of recognising the way the are being treated is unacceptable, their nervous system goes into survival mode (trauma response to threats). A person in this state becomes a lot more susceptible to suggestion, thus independent thinking is replaced with the will of the narcissist.

5. Victim Blaming

Another classic tactic of the spiritual narcissist is the subtle art of victim blaming. If a person shares a horrific story, like an assault, they may respond with something along the lines of suggesting it was their karma, God’s will, or the fulfilment of an unconscious desire. The casual lack of empathy and recognition of a victim of crime’s experience erodes self identity, thus paving the way for further exploitation.

Over time, the victim’s self esteem is chipped away at. No matter how hard they try to achieve spiritual purity, the narcissist will always find fault. No one in the flock is allow to be better than the master shepherd.

6. Word Salads

Ordinary narcissists are experts at creating word salads. If you ask them a question, they’ll respond by using catch-phrases, elaborate terminology, and sound bites of common analogies. You’re able to recognise parts of what they are saying, but since none of it actually makes sense, you’re left doubting your comprehension skills instead of doubting the messenger.

Spiritual narcissists do the same, only they mash up scripture within nonsense connections to sound more authoritative. For instance, in response to saying you have trouble sleeping at night, they may say: “The Goddess, shines down upon the earth like the moon. It’s always been that way, so that’s why lions like to hunt at night; feed your lions during the day and you’ll sleep better.” Don’t know what your lions are or how to feed them? Just pray to the Goddess and she will tell you through the spiritual narcissist’s wisdom. And if you suspect the cult leader is just making things up, well, that just demonstrates how little faith you have (ie. continuation of deceptive strategies).

They may also use this technique to spin pseudo-psychology terminology in an attempt to reframe life experiences to match their program, like Alan John Miller who evokes emotional responses in people then implies these are spiritual phenomena.

7. Special Knowledge

Spiritual narcissists don’t rely purely conventional knowledge and wisdom. They generally go one step further by convincing others they have a been especially chosen (by Jesus, an angel, an alien being, the forces of the universe, etc.) to convey a special message to others. They’ll may also claim to have sacred knowledge or insights that’s been handed to them through past lives, dreams, environmental signs or channeling (hearing voices in their head that are believed to come from some celestial origin).

Upon closer inspection, many of these so-called revolutionary thinkers have simply collected ideas from a range of sources, then rebranded them win a new spin. Kind of like what Freud did when he appropriated the Ancient Greek philosophy of the rational and irrational souls by calling them the id and superego. (The Greeks called the ego, the ego. )

8. Coercive Control

If a spiritual practice encourages an “us” versus “them” mentality, isolation from family and friends, exploitative labour practices, controls personal finances, surveillance of communication, and micromanaging of behaviour (like limits on how much peanut butter can be put on toast or how many toilet paper sheets are allowed per bathroom visit), the chances the group it’s being lead by a spiritual narcissist.

The biggest misconception about spiritual narcissists is that they are simply following bad doctrines. This is not the case. The theologies of a spiritual narcissistic are designed to be oppressive, and because they perceive themselves to be special and have a mystical connection to the divine, they feel justified in dominating and controlling others. 

The spiritual narcissist is not really concerned about the well-being of those who follow them, they are interested in control. Their abuse of power may not leave physical scars, but their coercive control can cause severe psychologically damage, which ranges from PTSD to loss of trust in legitimate spiritual exploration.

Closing Remarks

I am sincerely open to the prospect that some people have genuine spiritual experiences, and not all religious leaders are spiritual narcissists. However, it is equally prudent to recognise that not all religious leaders are good, just because they claim to be.

Unfortunately, freedom of religion laws often create loopholes for this form of abuse to go unchecked. Both the righteous and the sinister religious leader may be viewed the same by the naive and vulnerable.

There is no cure to spiritual narcissism. But recognising typical tactics like those mentioned here provides a solid start to de-cloaking wolves in sheeps’ clothings.

If you’ve had experiences with a spiritual narcissist, please share your stories by leaving a comment. Education and exposure are the best prevention.

True Origin of Sexism

Men thinking they are better than women has a long history. So long in fact, that evidence that patriarchal systems were not universal amongst ancient pre-western cultures comes as a surprise to some people. For example, New Zealand Māori women were completely confused by colonialists who treated them as inferior to their male counterparts. Their Polynesian ancestry had some gender stereotyping, however, harsh rigid gender expectations were not mandated. Some Māori women were warriors and caring for young children was not defined as a solely a female duty.

The situation in New Zealand is not unique. From Persia to Czech, and across the Euro-centric oceans to the First Nation people of the Americas and Australian and beyond, western sexism projected its distinct narcissistic persona.

The subjectiveness of western patriarchal values shines through in things like psychoanalytical theory which projects the “archetype” of first human being a male as a cosmic truism because it’s featured in a lot of European myths. I wonder how many psychoanalysts are aware that some Māori creation stories depict a female, Hineahuone, to be the first human? She was made from the soil by the great creator Tane. This “myth” contrasts to the Jewish (Babylonian) “story” (which is considered fact to some Christian’s) which depicts Adam*, a male, to be the first human. Wherever there is an exception to the rule, there is no rule.

*According to many interpretations of the Torah/Old Testament, the name “Adam” is to more precisely interpreted as being a non-binary term that depicts humans in general. Symbolically, the non-gendered Adam is symbolic of first humans all being hermaphrodites, like some fish species. Ergo, Genesis is a symbolic story of human development (seven days doesn’t really mean seven days as we understand it today, etc.). To put it briefly, Adam represents the physical creation of humans (earth and water), which subsequently mixes with soul and spirit (air and fire) that eventually evolves to what we understand to be contemporary humans. In turn, masculine and feminine become linguistic symbols of matter and spirit. 

Western Adam and Eve

How, when, and why did western ideas of male dominance become prominent? The situation is long and detailed, which I’ve described in detail elsewhere. The purpose of this blog is to cut to the chase and state the short version: male supremacy arose due to the (religious) belief that humans who have female physical form also a soul that is inferior to those who are born with a male physical form which is supposedly superior because because it is more like “God’s spirit”. Don’t believe me? Just ask Aristotle, this opinion is most evident in Politics.

In a nutshell, Ancient Greek “science” concluded that all females were inferior to males because their souls were supposedly like animals that needed to be domesticated. It is a fallacy, a narcissistic confabulation, that has endured for far too long. 

Western cultures (ie. groups of people descended from Greco-Roman influences) have been subject to this gaslighting for far too long. 

When did feminism begin?

According to contemporary thought, feminism began roughly in the mid 1800s when the seeds of suffrage emerged. However, in reviewing this history it also needs to be acknowledged that this is also the emergence of male suffrage. It was not just females who were subjected to ideals of “inferior souls”.  Males too were perceived as being “less than” if they did not own land or were credited with scholastic-based education (Dante expressed this well in his writings about the Monarchy, who historically perceive themselves to be closer to God than other humans). 

The Brain as Seat of the Soul

It is well established in Greek philosophy that the brain was duly believed to be the organism that links the physical being to the spiritual. Whether or not that is true (some say it is the whole physical being that connects humans to the spiritual), is irrelevant to common conjecture and sexist assumptions. Apparently, people born with female anatomy have an innate inferior connection to the unseen spiritual realm. The Roman’s obviously ran with this “science” which is why the Roman Catholic Church won’t allow women to become priests. If they could have foresee Gina Rippon research contradicts their ideas (as available on Amazon) I wonder if such a hard line would have been drawn?

Personally, I love examining the work of Samual Soemmerring. On one hand, he supported feminist objectives by scientifically proving a woman’s skeleton was not that different to a males, moreover, corsets were damaging to a female’s health. Nonetheless, he was still misogynist in his belief that souls born into a female form were inferior to those born into a male form. *Sigh*, at least the Smithonian’s believed the redeemer of western society would be born a woman.

Whilst patriarchs, like Jordan Peterson, continue the Aristotelian tradition that male’s are superior (because of their anatomy), let’s not forget that science and many ideologies do not agree.

Iamblichus, in his writings to a Greek, duly pointed out that some men could be “feminine” and some women were more “masculine”. He clearly stated that the spiritual disposition of individuals was not dependent upon their physical appearance. Perhaps this last Egyptian priest understood more about what it meant to be human than contemporary men who follow sexist ideals?

When Pythagoras, Plato, and Alexander the Great were called “Jesus”?: My Top 9 Reasons for Rejecting Jesus’ Virgin Birth

Christians, there’s an elephant in the room that we need to discuss: was Jesus really born to a virgin? If so, isn’t it only fair other recorded stories of immaculate conceptions are given credence too?

I’m happy to entertain the notion Mother Mary was fertilised by God’s seed, the Holy Spirit, and gave birth to a child known to many as Christ. This Christian “fact” potentially supports the “fact” that Pythagoras, Plato, and Alexander were also fertilised by supernatural means, namely Apollo’s seed. Alternative perspectives include rejecting all virginal births or believing Jesus is the one true exception. Before reaching any conclusive judgment, lets look at the arguments for and against Jesus, Pythagoras, Plato, and Alexander being born to virgin mothers.

Legends of Apollo’s Earthly Parenting

Apollo was a Greek God, the son of Zeus and Leto, and sister to Artemis. He is affiliated with truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the Sun and light, archery, the Arts and more. His complex nature was also revered by Romans. Unlike most deities, Apollo’s name was not altered when Greek mythology was Latinised.

Brief accounts of the men whose mothers were impregnated by Apollo:

  • Pythagoras (c.570—490 BCE) was born on the Greek island of Samos. His birth was predicted by an oracle to be beneficial to humankind. Legend says his mother, Parthenis, was called the Virgin and that she was impregnated by Apollo. Contemporary audiences know Pythagoras best for his mathematical prowess and the infamous theorem associated with his namesake. To his contemporaries, however, Pythagoras was a renowned spiritual leader who imparted great wisdom that included the dangers of eating beans and knowledge of how the Gods created the world using patterns that could be defined by numbers.
  • Plato (427—347 BCE) also amassed a group of disciples who followed his spiritual and mathematical genius. While some speculate he was a cultic offshoot of Pythagoras’ genius, he’s mostly considered a Master in his own right. Even in his own lifetime, Plato’s amazing intellect was so impressive it left little doubt he had a divine conception. Legend says, Apollo impregnated Plato’s mother, Perictione, and then appeared to his father in a dream and told him to not have any sexual relations till after Plato was born.
  • Alexander the Great (356—323 BCE) had his divine heritage authenticated by interpretations of dreams and symbolism. His mother, Olympias, sensed a thunderbolt entering her womb the night before she married. Her new husband then had a dream of a snake. Apparently, these signs made for the rational conclusion that Apollo was Alexander’s biological father, in turn his Demi-god status was reflected in bravery and determination to conquer lands through the Mediterranean. It is through Alexander that Greek culture, beliefs, and language became the standard of many lands that Rome later ruled.

What Christians Say About Jesus’ Virgin Birth

Idle Googling of Christian blogs and chat rooms quickly reveals comparing virgin births of famous Ancient Greek men to Jesus is not welcomed. Logic, it appears, is no match for faith. Common sentiments include: “Those other examples of immaculate conceptions have not been passed down through accurate historical records like the story of Jesus within the Bible.” Which is often followed by: “The New Testament is the infallible word of God!”

I want to laugh because the situation is so bizarre.

Above: Map of the world indicating countries (in gray) that recognise December 25 as a public holiday to Celebrate Christmas. Source: Wiki Commons

Christmas Day Quiz

Today is December 22, 2022, and in three days time countries around the globe will have a public holiday to celebrate Jesus’ historic birth in a manger. I would like to propose that as families sit around the dinner table, they discuss how many people in history have been conceived by a holy host or similar spiritual means?

Virgin conception may be considered in various contexts of a miraculous intervention. Essentially, any human that came into existence other than the usual process of male sperm and fertilizing female ova may be considered. For instance, Romulus and Remus, Horus, Zoracaster, and so forth are all contenders. The creative ability of humans' to perceive supernatural forms of conception should be acknowledged and praised, I say. 

How Did the Virgin Birth Become a Thing?

The cynical may say stories of virgin births were just an ancient means of unmarried mothers avoiding stigma, moreover, turning that stigma into glory. If so, I commentate women for rebuking patriarchal shame on single mothers. Alternatively, perhaps women were pulling the wool over men’s eyes and virgin births were a culturally approved way of covering up sex outside a formal partnership? 

Either way, the concept of virgin births beacons the question of whether or not some people in the past were totally ignorant of the procreation process? I mean, did individuals, sometimes of very high intellect, really believe a woman could have a child without having sexual intercourse with a man? Apparently so. 

The discovery of DNA, scientific understanding of genetics, and acceptance of non-nuclear families appear to have not done away with the belief in the impossible. 

For what it’s worth, I get it. I totally understand why so many people still believe Jesus was miraculously born to a virgin. I was once a believer too.

Birth of Jesus, Vyšší Brod, c. 1350. Source: Wiki Commons

I was born and raised Catholic. As a child, I had it impressed upon me that Jesus’ virginal birth was a Holy event that needed to be duly reflected upon with reverence, especially at Christmas time. 

Adding to the basic nativity story, I recall being told Mary never experienced any labour pain. Apparently, her baby flowed out from her womb in defiance of Eve’s sinful nature. Thus, she is the only female to have avoided the curse of labour pains God placed upon every other female. Mary was truly blessed. 

As an adult, weighing up the evidence that supposedly supports the “fact” that Jesus was born to a virgin, feels like trying to fill up a sieve. It can appear full while the tap is running but as soon as it’s moved away from the facet, it’s obvious the vessel cannot hold the water. In other words, Jesus’ miraculous birth only appears valid when placed under a stream of Christian belief. 

About a year ago, I wrote a blog in which I described my journey of deconstructing Jesus’ virgin birth. The path I took was not one of simple logic, rather it came about by investigating Biblical symbolism. In particular I’d been researching the Jewish practice of personifying religious structures using a family analogy. Initially, it came as a great shock to be confronted with the prospect that such a long held Christian teaching was a lie. 

It was as though I’d had the “fact” that Jesus was born to a virgin poured over me so many times my sieve had become clogged. Holes needed to be poked clean before the reality of an empty vessel was clearly evident.  A few years on, entertaining the idea that any man (Jesus, Pythagoras, Plato, Alexander, or any other) was ever literally born to a virgin mother sounds like a fairytale. 

Summaries of Arguments Supporting Jesus’ Virgin Birth

  1. The Bible says so
  2. The Bible is the impeccable word of God (usually based on the premise it has been passed down through the ages without error)

The extent one wants to believe God’s divine intervention inspired the people who wrote the Bible is a subjective matter. Objectively, there is a lot of evidence to support the argument that the Bible has been translated so many times – through numerous cultures, changing social values, and various languages – that modern day editions  are a far cry from the original.

In addition to the above points, some Christians may claim Jesus’ virgin birth was prophesied in the Old Testament, thus providing circumstantial evidence. Isaiah 7:14 is a popular verse to quote when making this claim:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (‘God is with us’).

English Standard Version

However, in Hebrew the verse is more frequently interpreted as “young women”, not “virgin”. Thus a clash of values between Judaism and Greek is identifiable. In Hellenised groups it was culturally acceptable to call young women “virgins” but such colloquialism did not readily occur in Jewish communities.

Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

JPS Tanakh 1917

Christianity is a blend of many influences, most notably Jewish and Greek. The alignment of these cultures was not always straightforward. Therefore, perhaps the virgin/young women conflict is an innocent misunderstanding which has been further compounded by third parties who interpreted “virgin” to be a woman who never had sexual intercourse? Maybe, maybe not. Some people, like Rabbi Tovia Singer, are of the opinion the error was not innocent at all. Rather, Singer accuses Church Fathers of deliberately misconstruing Hebrew text so it aligned with Greco-Roman world views and values.

Summaries of Arguments for Rejecting Jesus’ Virgin Birth

The main reasons why I do not believe in the immaculate conception are (in no specific order of importance): 

  1. Current scientific theory and understandings of human reproductive processes prove that parthenogenesis is impossible for our species.
  2. From a science fiction perspective, if the impossible were to happen and a virgin were to get pregnant, one of her eggs would have to produce, on its own, the biochemical changes indicative of fertilization, and then divide abnormally to compensate for the lack of sperm DNA. Consequently, if this rarity were to occur, due to the absence of a Y chromosome which only a father can supply, the child is more likely to be female not male.
  3. Judaism has a tradition of personifying characters and characteristics to convey meaning. Ie., Mary is the personification of the Christian Church, and her virginity reflects the idea of a Mother who is pure and free of (original) sin. Even the Pope is well aware of this symbolism.
  4. The word “virgin” can be interpreted in more than one way. Ie., young woman, daughter, and/or a woman who’s never had sexual intercourse with a man. Even if the Bible is the authentically inspired word of God, humans are not necessarily perfect translators and interpreters. 
  5. History is filled with miraculous births that supposedly took place between earthly women and God/s. Given these are widely accepted as fictional, the premise that Jesus’ case is the only one that really happened and all others are myths, is highly unlikely. 
  6. Accounts of Mary’s virginity are only recorded in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, not Mark and John. Further, documents outside the canonised Gospels (like apocryphal writings and the Dead Sea scrolls) indicate Early Christians lacked agreement surrounding the details of Jesus’ birth, infancy, and upbringing. Did the Bishops who attended the Nicene Council in 325CE really get it right? Or is it possible political interests got in the way of discussions? 
  7. Circumstantially, the depiction of Jesus being conceived by supernatural means can be viewed as a Greek literary device used to emphasise Him being an important man. Potentially, the sentiment “born to a virgin mother”, was never intended to be interpreted literally, it was merely a figure of speech. 
  8. Some early sects of Christianity, known collectively as Gnostics, are renowned for their belief that the narrative of Jesus’ life was primarily symbolic. These Christians were later condemned as heretics by literalists, their beliefs outlawed, and their writings destroyed. According to the rulings of the Nicene, following any belief not approved by the Roman Catholic Church was an excommunicable offence. 
  9. The authority of the Church, especially after it was Romanised, remained so strong that up until relatively recently, anyone who challenged its assertions of “facts” could still face dire consequences. A prime example is Isaac Newton who studied some of the oldest surviving scriptures written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He concluded forgeries and mistranslations were clearly evident. Specifically, he attested to Early Christians not following Trinitarian doctrines, which puts Jesus’ immaculate conception in further doubt. Newton kept his opinions to himself out of fears of losing his teaching career and the respect of his peers.

Overall, the chance and probably that Jesus was really the product of woman’s ova and Holy Spirit semen is very slim. My guesstimate, if all other virgin births throughout cultures and the ages are considered, is roughly one in a zillion. 

Rejecting the idea that Jesus was physically the son of God does not necessarily mean there is no truth in the Biblical legacy of this man who wandered around Nazareth preaching a revised vision of Judaism. Street preachers were a lot more common 2000 years ago than now, and given most of the world still recognises his birth with a public holiday, Jesus was evidently more popular than most. 

Personally, I find the notion that Jesus came into the world in the usual way very reassuring. If He was human, just like the rest of us, using him as a role model who embodied peace and love is a lot more realistic and relatable.

When Pythagoras, Plato, and Alexander were called “Jesus”

In Hellenistic traditions, to say a man was born of a virgin could be viewed as an euphemism that expressed greatness. The achievements of people like Pythagoras, Plato, and Alexandria were considered so extraordinary they were placed on the highest tier of patriarchal value: they were sons of the gods. In Ancient Greek, the saying was more likely to be the son of Zeus. In turn, it’s interesting to note, “Son of Zeus” in Ancient Greek era that overlaps with New Testament writings was “Iesus”, which literally translated into modern English is “Jesus” … therefore, one could say Pythagoras, Plato, and Alexandria were all “Jesus’” …

Perhaps the message Early Christians intended to spread was that every person on earth was the offspring of God?

Romas, Romanians, and Romans: A Trip Down a Rabbit Hole that Led to Zamolxis

I spent this morning going down rabbit holes of unexpected learnings. It started by looking at details of the holocaust which made me curious about the “Roma” who were persecuted along side the Jews, some Slavic groups, and people with disabilities. I was initially inspired to explore this due to watching a couple of movies on Netflix yesterday about Hasidic Jews, “Unorthodox” and “One of Us”.

In English, Roma (also known as Romani) are colloquially known as Gypsies. So, at first I was thinking “Okay, so Hilter killed all the nomadic people who were not integrated into society”. Turns out, it was not that simple.

The Romani were an ethnic group that originated from Northern India, therefore have an Indo-European ancestry. Displaced from their original homeland (due to various reasons/theories), they became nomadic, hence Romani have several European “homelands”, one of which is Romania – more on this shortly.

“Did Hilter kill Romani for religious reasons?” I wandered. As it turns out, the simple answer is “No”. Just as the Jews were not killed for their religious beliefs per se, Hilter perceived the ethnicity of Romani to be inferior to native Germans or Ayrans. Hitler supported eugenics to the ninth degree, you could almost say eugenics was Hitler’s religion.

Side note: a lot of world leaders practiced eugenics, including ones in Australia, but Hilter’s genocide programs made his devotion to the ideology much more “effective” than most others who relied more upon sterilisation and other tactics designed to create “utopian” civilisations. In Australia, our eugenics legacy includes the institutionalisation of people mental health issues (and things like being poor could be considered to be a mental health disorder), the incarceration of First Nation people in reserves, and the stolen generation … Australians really have not faced the full impact of our politicians' support of eugenics. 

Interestingly, Romani don’t have a unified religion, rather groups practiced a variety of faiths ranging from Hinduism through to Christianity and Islam. Roma are, however, bound by a common language, Rromanës, albeit there are different dialects. Rromanës is a language derived from Sanskrit and is not to be confused with Romance languages that are derived by Roman (Latin) influences.

Whilst Romani groups are tight knit communities who at one point in time originated from the same location, their uniformity has been subject to adaptation to outside influences and/or pressures. Historical derivatives of “follow our religion or be killed” by both Christian and Islamic leaderships can be speculated as being contributing factors to the loss of Hinduism amongst some Roma.

I decided to explore further, in particular I wanted to know the connection between Romas, Romanians and Romans. I soon discovered I was following a typical misunderstanding; while many Romani live in Romania, despite the linguistic similarity of their names, the two groups have very different histories. For this reason, the Romanian government is actively trying to have the term Roma (which was officially instigated in 1971) replaced by the alternative, Tigan. Romanians say it is an insult to both cultures when they are confused as being one (I can understand this sentiment if I imagine Australians being confused with Austrians – there are no kangaroos in Austria, mate).

Romanians, like many European countries, generally have a low opinion of Romani because they are considered to be antisocial, uneducated, and are associated with begging, stealing, and other criminal activity. Having said that, there is currently a shift away from hatred towards more compassion and understanding being given to this persecuted population who have limited access to education, healthcare, etc. Amnesty International actively assists Roma who are subject to poverty and prejudices.

Unlike the Jews who have global representation and the capacity to speak out about their holocaust experiences, the Romani are not so well represented, therefore, they can still experience a lot of unjust discrimination.

Romani essentially have nothing to do with Romania. Further, given Roma come from India, it’s not surprising that they have no connection to Rome, unless their clan accepted Christianity as their religion, as did happen when Romani were nomadic citizens of Christian nations, like Romania. So, perhaps there is a vague connection there? I needed to investigate further.

Above: Map of European/Asia Minor counties in 1CE. Dacia is highlighted by red outline. Areas shaded in pink are Roman territories. Parts of Dacia (that held valuable gold mines) were taken over by Roman powers c.106CE. Image source: Euratlas

A link between Romania and Romans does exist, so my focus switched to this connection.

Many people have asked questions regarding Romanian’s link to Ancient Rome, and there are an abundance of theories out there so I’m not going to go into too much detail (I enough readers to Google information for themselves if they want more precise information). Putting it briefly, the Romans took control of about 30% of what is current day Romania because they wanted access to their gold mines. The existing population, the Dacians, put up heroic resistance but, alas, the Roman military was too strong. According to Quora responses, most current day Romanians have a shared sense of honour towards both their Dacian and Roman ancestors.

The Dacians have a fascinating history, and as per my norm, I wanted to explore their religious beliefs. Much to my surprise, they were mostly monotheistic. Why was I surprised by this? I guess it’s because I’m so used to being told that most religions before Christianity were polytheistic … and yet my research so often reveals elsewise – that’s a rant for another day. 

The supreme deity of the Dacians was called Zamolxis. 

Zamolxis was Lord of life and death. The Dacians (and their neighbours, the Thracians) believed their souls were immortal and that upon death they’d live on in a blissful afterlife. Death was almost celebrated, as was common in many ancient cults and cultures (the only difference between a cult and culture is the number of people involved, in both instances the terms simply refers to a group of people who have a shared set of values; both cults and cultures can be considered healthy or destructive depending on what values they support).

I’ve long noted that soldiers who are taught the afterlife is better than the physical realm are braver than those who fear death (a classic modern day example being ISIS suicide bombers). In the case of the Dacians, attitudes towards death were exemplified through ceremonial human sacrifices offered to Zamolxis every five years. (Whilst little is known about the Mithras cult which many of the Roman soldiers followed, I suspect giving one’s life in the name of Mithras was a significant component of the belief system – how else could Roman soldiers have been so ruthless? Sorry, I’m getting off track again.)

Some reports say that Zamolxis was a slave to Pythagoras (the Greek mathematician who was born of a virgin), while others say he was Pythagoras’ student. (Modern understandings of terms “slave” and “student” can differ to ancient concepts.)

Plato also had a few interesting things to say about Zamolxis, such as he was a great physician who could heal the body and mind. 

Other tidbits about Zamolxis include details of him studying with Egyptians and Babylonians (Zoroastrian priests to be exact), and his teachings revolve around the theme of light overcoming darkness. Herodotus claims Zamolxis was a real man who taught the Dacians about immortality, then disappeared into a cave for three years. When he came back to the Dacians a second time, some interpreted these events as Zamolxis dying and resurrecting.

On a hunch, I decided to look up when Zamolxis birthday was, and guess what? It is mid winter, ie., 25 December … conversely, April fools day seems to have been a popular time for virgins to become pregnant to prophets, deities, nobles, or the otherwise divine (in ancient times a virgin could simply be a reference to a young woman, an it was young women who had babies)

Ancient records are hard to decipher and/or the author’s tendencies to add personal opinions as fact makes precise information difficult to interpret actual events. Consequently, I am hesitant to claim Zamolxis is an archetype of Jesus; the theological foundations of the ancient world are not that straightforward and I’m not comfortable with contemporary definitions of the idea of archetypes. I’d prefer to reserve judgment and practice ongoing learning.

One final learning about Zamolxis that I’d like to share is that of the legend of the werewolf. According to the stories, the first werewolf was a Zamolxis priest who was dedicated to protecting the Dacian people. Ergo, werewolves are a positive symbol of protection … unless of course you are the enemy of the Dacian … What a classic example of how perspective can change everything!

As a final reflection on my morning of self education, it never ceases to amaze me that following a particular issue can lead to such fascinating paths of discovery and new knowledge. When I first started to investigate who Hilter ordered to be killed in gas chambers, I had no idea the quest would end with learnings about ancient Dacia.

A Christian Apology to All Jews

Today I watched the following clip of Richard Dawkins debating the validity of the Bible with a panel of theologians. Many things could be extrapolated. What I would like to focus on are the comments made by the Jewish representative, whom unfortunately I don’t know the name of, so hereafter I’ll refer to as “Rabbi”.


In the first 20 seconds of the clip, Dawkins expresses dismay at 40-45% at American people believing Biblical stories of Adam and Eve are literally true. Rabbi is seen in the background nodding her head, presumably in agreement that literal interpretations of the Bible are of concern.

As the clip progresses, Rabbi speaks of the need to argue about the significance of Biblical stories. She acknowledges the messy, and sometimes grotesque storylines – like that of Sodom and Gomorrah – then continues by inferring life is not idealistic, therefore, debating Biblical representations can help one consider the nuances of God and life. Rabbi implies that doing so helps us grow, individually and collectively.

Rabbi’s comments are eloquent. They also succinctly adhered to what a Jewish friend of mine recently told me, that Judaism is all about one’s personal relationship with God, not a system dictated by fundamentalism. “Listen to the voice that is missing” (1:50 into the video) is a theological approach to understanding the Bible not often heard in Christian circles.

Rabbi talks about the Jewish canon developing: “We [Jews] continually developed how we see the Bible, so we continue to develop how we see God” and how we see ourselves. Rabbi continues, “I think there is truth in the messy, horrible stories”. She poignantly points out that the Jewish Bible is not the only reference material Jews use to define and explore their faith. Her words were like fresh air, she is intellectual yet relatable … Christianity began as a Jewish sect, yet somehow, somewhere these insights have been lost … I’ll return to this point shortly.

At the 9:15 minute mark a Christain leader throws in the obnoxious remark “where would ‘we’ be without the 10 commandments?” (because, you know, humans can’t work out morality without being told by an authority, lol! … such sentiments that denude faith in human beings have always amusing to me – through my teaching/learning career I’ve developed a deep appreciation of the innate good in people, but that’s another story best told another time). Rabbi’s response is golden.

Dawkin impressively recites the first few commandments, and he questions the point of these, only to be cut down to size by Rabbi who states: “It means humility”. She goes on to explain the first two commandments (1. I am the Lord your God; 2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain) are about suppressing one’s ego and recognizing “I am a human, but I am not the centre of everything”. Like WOW, this woman is truly amazing, and her insights into the ‘Old Testament’ are relevant to Jews and Christians alike. Her understanding was of the Bible are filled with much humility and grace.

For some time now, I’ve said to anyone who cares to listen, I have great empathy for the Jews. Their writings (known to the broader public as the Old Testament) were abducted by Christians, then (some) Christians had the nerve (and ego) to tell Jews the interpretations of their appreciation of their stories were wrong! As an artist, I fully get that others may interpret my work according to their biases, but for anyone to tell me the expression of my ideas is “wrong” indicates real arrogance. Like yeah, I didn’t know what I was thinking and you *obviously* know me better than I know myself. This is a crime too many Christians make against Jews.

My heart goes out to all Jewish communities, of all places and times. I fear you have been misunderstood on a monumental scale. I have Christian heritage, therefore, I am as much to blame as anyone born into similar circumstances. For what it’s worth, I apologise for my ancestors’ cruelty.

I was raised a Catholic, and yet it is only now, in my fifth decade upon the earth, that I have begun to investigate and appreciate the Jewish basis of the Christianit faith that I was born into. Woe is me and my ignorance.

When I first began deconstructing Christianity, I did so through a very Greco-Roman lens because that is what I was most familiar with. The further I inquire, the more I appreciate Judaism, and I can’t help but wonder if all Christians would benefit from fully embracing the fact that Christianity began as a Jewish sect.

As Rabbi implied, Jews are not necessarily a perfect people. Nonetheless, Judaism does not insist upon dogmatic protocols. I admire this. There is something precious that to be found in the spirit of encouraging a personal relationship between the divine and the individual, without giving into narcissistic tendencies. 

Rabbi’s criticisms of Dawkins do not attack his argument per se, but how his voice and language aligns with fundamentalism, which wants to convert people forcefully, thus is of concern. Like, WOW, again! What a powerful insight to a subtle aspect of religious discussions that can so easily be overlooked. Rabbi (I wish I knew your name), your presentation was superb!

Richard Dawkins, I appreciate your work and critical thinking that has led many to question their beliefs. Having said that, if I were to critically appraise the debate I watched today between yourself and theologians, Rabbi won. I concur, the Bible needs to be argued and debated. Further, I can’t help but see the New Testament as being a development of the Old. My convulsions are this: the New Testament is an attempt (by Jews who lived about 200p years ago) to develop the Old Testament according to Greco-Roman values of their time. Rabbi, if by chance you come across this blog, I would warmly welcome your comments and feedback.

Dear Australians #2.5: God’s Authority

One of the aim’s of the Religious Discrimination Bill was to give religious organisations the capacity to operate under the guidelines of what they perceive to be God’s authority, as opposed to earthly authorities, like Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

In the early hours of 10 February, 2022, last minute changes the bill saw the insertion of clauses that would prevent institutions like schools being able to discriminate against staff and students who are homosexual. Nonetheless, these alterations were rejected in the Senate because the bill still did not address transgender issues, thus the government was concerned transgender staff and students may still be vilified.

Some church groups also rejected the changes because it meant they were not getting what they wanted – the right to discriminate against staff and students on the grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status. They argue religions should be allowed to uphold their beliefs, traditions, and values, even if these are prejudicial, because God’s authority should be higher than government mandated laws.

God’s authority in America allows discrimination …

If the Religious Discrimination Bill were to go ahead, one only needs to look at American to see the type of discrimination that could arise. For instance, Hillsong demoted a choir director when it became known they were openly gay. The director’s skills and expertise in leading a choir were never in question, rather, it was a case of not wanted to be seen as supporting LGBTQ+. This is the same Pentecostal church Scott Morrison has affiliations with, which begs questioning the possibility that the Morrison government wants the same sort of discrimination to be legal in Australia?

Hillsong is a form of Christianity that claims to love everyone, but if you’re homosexual then you’re not entitled to have positions of responsibility. Perhaps, Brian Houston (who just happens to be a close friend of Morrison) doesn’t know of the history of Castrati!?

Castrati, Transgenderism Approved by God’s Authority

Castrati were singers who had their testes and/or scrotum removed before puberty so they produced less testosterone and, in turn, maintained the capacity to sing high notes as adults. The procedure was usually not of the boys choosing, rather poor parents did it in exchange for money and to profit off their child’s gifted singing abilities. The procedures were approved of by the Catholic Church, an institution established on the premise that it is a mediator of God’s authority.

The trend began in the 1500s to enable choirs the flexibility of singing songs with a full range of harmonies. The mutation of boys anatomy was deemed an appropriate solution to fulfil the “need” of producing heavenly melodies. Castrati were “necessary” because women were banned from church choirs. Further, the procedure could be justified using Matthew 19:12 – a Castrato was an eunuch made for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens.

Castrati were popular throughout Europe and highly valued in Vatican choirs. As effeminate men, many adjusted their identity to suit their circumstances, which in some cases involved homosexual relationships. If they could still achieve erections, they could be sort after by affluent women who wanted an affair with a hairless lover who could not impregnate them.

Castrations were made illegal in Italy in 1861, but the practice was not banned by Papal rule till 1903. Italian doctors are reported to have continued making castrati for the Sistine Chapel choir until 1870.

The last Castrato, Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922), followed the centuries old tradition of being the director of the Sistine Chapel choir. It is unclear if Moreschi’s castration was done purely to preserve his vocal range or if it was done to cure an inguinal hernia. Either way, the transgender-like procedure he went through was never viewed as being a threat to the morality of Christendom. He was nicknamed the “Angel of Rome” and recordings of his work are now on YouTube.

Religious Freedom or Religious Abuse?

Christianity’s history of supporting transgender-like procedures on religious grounds – Castrati and eunuchs – is a poignant backdrop for considering modern issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in modern churches. Essentially, when the purpose of altering a male’s anatomy to make them more like a woman suited their needs, Christianity approved transgenderism. Moreover, effeminate men were glorified for their feminine singing skills and any homosexual behaviours were largely ignored. Fast forward to today, and Christians can be discriminated against for exercising their free will to be transgender and/or homosexual.

When governments banned castrations, were they discriminating against religious traditions? Or were they putting the welfare of individuals above cruel religious practices?

So too, if governments prevent religions from being able to discriminate on the grounds of gender identity, are religious faiths being discriminated against? Or are the freedoms of individuals being protected from cruel religious practices?

Freedom of religion that leads to religious abuse was a prime consideration that lead to the development of human rights. Why have a bill that overrides this aim?

Castrati is not the same as homosexuality …

The common tread between Christians historically supporting Castrati choir directors and contemporary Christians discriminating against homosexual choir directors is that both situations represent practices that are supposedly supported by God’s authority. Discerning what is God’s authority ultimately comes down to which version of the Bible one reads and how it is interpreted. Idiosyncratic issues of what is “God’s authority” regarding gender identity and sexual orientation is nuanced by historical and cultural contexts.

It could be argued that Pentecostalism formed as a reaction against the practices of other Christian denominations and their practices, like Catholic Castrati, who supposedly misinterpreted God’s authority. Then again, it could be argued that churches who accept LGBTQ+ Christians are a reaction against other Christians, like Pentecostalism, because they have misinterpreted God’s authority … the circular arguments are endless. Not all denominations of Christianity are equal, and even within specific churches, Christian attitudes can vary.

So, if the Bible is the official document that defines God’s authority, why are there so many variations? … Dear Australians #2.6: the Bible’s authority …

This blog is part of a series that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.


Dear Australians #2.4: Jesus and Women

Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex …

Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …


Davis, E. (2020). What was a castrato? And what did they sound like? Amp.classicfm.com. https://amp.classicfm.com/discover-music/what-is-a-castrato/

Perrottet, T. (2007). Why Castrati Made Better Lovers. The Smart Set. https://www.thesmartset.com/article0806070116/

Skuse, A. (2021). The Instrumental Body: Castrati. In http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Cambridge University Press. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK571299/

Feature image: Public Domain

Non-Binary Christians in History: Eunuchs and a Bearded Woman


The concept of non-binary genders is relatively new, with the term only being coined a few decades ago. Nonetheless, there is ample evidence to suggest humanity has never neatly fitted into two categories of male and female. While some modern Christians oppose non-binary concepts and transgenderism, there is an extensive history of Christians embracing diversity. For instance, Matthew’s biblical reference to eunuchs implies men without penises were socially accepted, moreover, could be glorified:

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Matthew 19:12 (KJV)
If you have troubles locating Matthew's comments on eunuchs, its probably because some contemporary Bibles have altered the wording:

Some people are unable to marry because of birth defects or because of what someone has done to their bodies. Others stay single in order to serve God better. Anyone who can accept this teaching should do so.

Matthew 19:12 (CEV)

The above verse was used by some Early Christians to justify self-castration (e.g., Origen), which could be viewed as a crude form of primitive gender re-assignment. While today’s transgender procedures can be conducted without an individual having a religious rationale, it’s good to keep in mind that pretty much everything in bygone eras was done due to spiritual beliefs. Conversely, in the absence of contemporary attitudes in which individuals can have personal reasons for identifying as non-binary and desiring gender reassignment procedures, antiquity’s social acceptance of eunuchs within religion would have been a valid pathway for non-binary individuals.

Bearded Woman

In contrast to castrated men, women could be glorified or demonised for growing a beard, as was the case in the fourteenth century legend of Wilgefortis.

Wilgefortis’ father tried to marry her off to a non-Christian, however, she prayed to God to prevent this from occurring and, subsequently, grew a beard and was considered too repulsive to wed. Wilgefortis was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death by cruxifixction. While demonised by some, others likened her to Christ and prayed to her as a saint.

German image of St Wilgefortis, Source: Public Domain

Christian cults dedicated to venerating Wilgefortis spread throughout Europe. She was particularly popular with women in difficult or abusive marriages. There are several variations of Wilgefortis’ story, however, all focus around the inference of the Latin version of her name, virgo fortis, which means courageous virgin.

The disbanding of Wilgefortis cults coincided with church reformations in the sixteenth century.

From a modern perspective, Wilgefortis was likely to have been non-binary, like the artist mentioned in Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex. Hirsutism; the term applied to women who grow beards, can be caused by genetics, hormones, or other causes. In the absence of such understandings being known or understood, Wilgefortis was considered a freak of nature and/or a woman blessed by God.

I can just imagine Wilgefortis trying to tell her honest truth – that she was not interested in the man her father wanted her to wed and wanted to remain a virgin. However, given that women had few rights and daughters were considered to be a father’s possession, she had little recourse. Therefore, Wilgefortis did the only thing she could to try to alter the situation by praying to God. Her subsequent “miraculous” growing of a beard is likely to have been because she was a hirsute. From a contemporary perspective, Wilgefortis, being a young girl when her father tried to marry her off, had not yet reached an age for the beard to manifest. Additionally she was probably too young to be interested in sex and/or was asexual.

Our ancestors were superstitious, really superstitious. In the absence of knowledge about chromosomes, hormones, and other biological factors, spiritual theories provided explanations for phenomena that was not otherwise understood. The fact that Wilgefortis was considered a witch by some and a saint by others indicates it all really came down to a matter of belief. Coinciding with lack of scientific knowledge was the enduring perception that there is perfect a “nature” of males and females and failing to meet one of these binaries is sin.

In 1906 a Jesuit priest proposed Wilgefortis never lived and that her legend emerged from a creative interpretation of an artwork of an androgynous looking Jesus. In 1969, when the Catholic Church updated their list of saints, Wilgefortis was stripped of her saintly status.

The “official” rejection of Wilgefortis leads to more questions than it does resolutions. If Christians of the past could be so easily confused and make up stories about a bearded woman, what else has been fabricated? What other miracles and/or answered prayers are nothing but superstitious legends? What other saintly legends are fake? Or, as others have suggested, did the Pope just want to remove evidence of the Church supporting non-binary individuals?


King, J. (13 C.E., August). Saint Wilgefortis: a bearded woman with a queer history | Art UK. Artuk.org. https://artuk.org/discover/stories/saint-wilgefortis-a-bearded-woman-with-a-queer-history#

Ott, M. (1912). Wilgefortis. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 4, 2022 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15622a.htm

Sheldon, N. (2018, July 26). Saint Wilgefortis: The “Brave Virgin” with a Beard from God. HistoryCollection.com. https://historycollection.com/saint-wilgefortis-the-brave-virgin-with-a-beard/

Judaism and Christianity Sacred Unions: Husband and Wife, Groom and Bride

Judaism and Christianity both use the family terms of “husband” and “wife” and/or “groom” and “bride” as symbolic representations of theological concepts. If these labels are interpreted literally, scriptural writings can appear confusing (and sometimes grotesque). Read allegorically, they reveal a whole new dimension of meaning.

Jewish Husband and Wife – Theologically Speaking

The Jews began the trend by likening God to a “husband” with the Israelites being his “wife”; God is the “father” and Israelites the “mother”. Just as real wives were expected to be faithful to their husbands, Israelites were to honour their patriarchal head of the spiritual family.

Ezekiel 16 describes Israelites as being a nation whom God looked after like a King and turned her into a “Queen”. While Isaiah claims Israel was a wife who married too young and was rejected by her husband:

For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.

Isaiah 54:5-6

The allegories of husband and wife follows through to Jews who turned away from God (by worshipping other deities) being condemned as harlots: “You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!” (Ezekiel 16:32).

Christian Groom and Bride – Theologically Speaking

Christianity, as a continuation of Judaism, maintained the theme of God as head of the family, only with a twist: Christ is the groom and his followers (Christians) the bride. The transference of God as husband to Christ as groom has a logical(ish) sequence that falls in line with trinity theology – God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ are one.

  • Mark 2:19-20 – And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
  • John 3:29 – The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
  • 2 Corinthians 11:2 – I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
  • Revelation 19:7 – the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.
  • Revelation 19:9 – “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
  • Revelation 21:2 – I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
  • Revelation 21:9 – “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

Creative Reconciliation

To creatively fill in the gaps between Judaism and Christianity, the Jews were wed to God when they were young and inexperienced with relationships, subsequently, the newly weds encountered conflicts neither could deal with. A separation was needed. After some time on their own, the husband was sure his bride would reflect upon her behaviour.

As a reassurance that a reunion was eminent, God wrote up a renewal of vows, and made himself into a younger more attractive mate (Jesus). The new covenant (the New Testament) was a modernised version of the old; God didn’t want to admit fault for causing his wife to find another man, but his actions suggested he took on board some of the responsibility.

Full of desire to make the second marriage last forever, the groom insisted upon a long engagement. The proposal was made about 2000 years ago but the Trinity insisted the bride had to be fully mature before taking the final plunge. She’s been quite impatient: “Is it time yet? Is it time yet?” all the faithful Christians have chanted for a couple of millennium. They have fasted and fasted as they await the return of the groom. She is sure this time round it will be a match made in heaven.

Ultimately, only time will tell if the lamb intends to keep his promise or if he has deceived his bride and intends on leaving her at the alter forever …

Feature picture source: Wikipedia Commons

Dear Australians #2.4: Jesus and Women

The cultures Christianity emerged from, (Jewish and Greco-Roman, c.30-100CE), were patriarchal and sexist. While women in some spheres could hold positions of power, the mainstream way of life was men had more authority and women were expected to be submissive. Christianity’s saviour, Jesus, overtly and covertly challenged these gender attitudes.

A clear example of Jesus defying culture norms is in the Gospel story Luke 7:36-50. This chapter details a “sinner” woman, usually presumed to be a prostitute, who anoints Jesus feet with oil and begs for “forgiveness”. Pharisees witnessing the event are shocked that Jesus did not shun her as was expected by a Jew.

The narrative does not explicitly state the woman is a sex worker, however, it is broadly recognised that she was. Why? Because she had her hair out. (Disciple Paul confirms values of the period by implying honourable women should cover their hair or have their heads shaved when praying or prophesying; 1 Corinthians 11:1-6).

Christ in the House of Simon, Dieric Bouts, c.1420-1475. Source: Wikipedia Commons

In Biblical times there were three types of prostitutes:

  1. Women who made a living by sleeping with men. The reason why some women engaged in this occupation is as varied as today’s sex workers with the exception that women in antiquity did not have access to social security payments or a vast option of employment opportunities (women rarely studied and they weren’t allowed to do “men’s jobs”, like being a tax collector, fisherwomen, soldier, politician, etc.), therefore, being a prostitute was some women’s only option if they did not have a man (father/son/uncle) to financially support them.
  2. Sacred or temple prostitutes. Being a temple worker had associations with performing fertility rites that may or may not have included sexual acts. Such traditions go back to old Babylonian days and were a feature of some Roman cults. While there is conjecture amongst scholars about the types of activities that took place in temples (especially of women’s roles), there is also clear evidence that in some instances, ritualised sex was performed to praise and/or appease deities that people idolised. Israelites despised these traditions and clearly stated in their law that such behaviour was forbidden (Deuteronomy 23:17).
  3. Any woman who had sex outside of marriage could be labelled a harlot. Under Jewish law an adulteress could be stoned to death (John 8:1-11). Men could be stoned for adultery too, however, this was considered to be a lesser crime; wives were a husband’s possession, therefore, if she voluntarily slept with another man his “goods” were damaged, but since a wife didn’t own her husband she did not have the same reprieve if her husband was unfaithful.

(Side note: in Greco-Roman societies males could also be prostitutes. Their clients were usually other men. To engage in male prostitution in a brothel, as a sex worker or client, was looked down upon but was also considered an unremarkable aspect of daily life.)

Luke 7 does not tell us what type of “sinner” the woman was, nonetheless, the Pharisees would have looked down upon her because Jewish scripture denounced harlotry in all forms.

Jews hatred of prostitution had gross misogynistic overtones, as evidenced in Judges 19 where women (daughters and virgins) are depicted as being disposable objects that can be raped and abused without men needing to feel any guilt for their actions (it can be argued that the story is not literal, nonetheless, the symbolic imagery of women being objects at men’s disposal signifies cultural values). Moreover, there is a strong message of male entitlement to women’s bodies. Personally, Judges 19 reminds of contemporary online forums run by Incels (involuntary celibates), but perhaps that’s just me.

From a realistic viewpoint, assuming the woman in Luke 7:36 was a harlot, by any definition, I can’t imagine her experiences were pleasurable, absent of abuse, or born of her freely making life choices. Rather, the manner in which she is described – rushing into the house and begging for reprieve from Jesus – suggests she was in a desperate state, in other words, traumatised. Nowadays we know a lot more about the impacts of sexual trauma, coercive control, and victim responses of fight, flight, freeze, and fawn compared to 2000+ years ago.

From a contemporary mindset, the Pharisees’ expressions of judgement about the woman’s sexual interactions reflects arrogance and cruelty. Jesus does not address these issues directly, instead he does so indirectly by giving the woman unconditional positive regard and appreciating her endearing qualities as she anoints his feet with oil. Jesus’ compassion confused the Jewish religious leaders.

The story of Jesus’ forgiving the prostitute is juxtaposed with a parable of two people being granted clemency of financial debts, one owes little money, the other a lot. The moral is that whomever is forgiven the larger debt will be more grateful, which is likened to whomever excessively sins will be more grateful for God’s forgiveness than one who has only sinned a little.

A standard interpretation of the passage is that it is the prostitute who had sinned the most, therefore, she will love God more than the Pharisees who had sinned little. I would like to challenge these assumptions by suggesting it was the prostitute who had sinned the least, and the Pharisees’ discrimination, prejudices, harsh judgments, and absence of compassion were the bigger sins. This proposition is supported by Matthew 21:31 “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you”.

Further, I can’t help but wonder if the seven “demons” Jesus expelled from the woman were shame, guilt, embarrassment, self-loathing, stigmatisation, humiliation, and helplessness.

From a trauma-informed lens, Jesus’ act of forgiveness actively rejected victim blaming and the stigmatising behaviours of the Pharisees. The superstitious pretence of the woman’s so-called demons being the cause of her sexual “immorality” is archaic sexism. The society she lived in was the dis-ease that needed curing (Christianity and Disease).

Overall, Early Christianity offered acceptance to females (even “prostitutes”) in a way that other competing major religions did not: Judaism expected women to be pure and faithful to their husbands/father/other male or else they could be stoned to death. The (Roman) Mithras cult was only for men, and the (Greek) Dionysus cult had orgies, as too did the Roman version, the Bacchus cult.

In a sense Christianity subtly evened the gender score cards, at least in theory it did. Celibacy was encouraged for everyone, otherwise sex was only to occur in a marriage bed.

Moving on to Sensible Sexuality

Early Christianity was not necessarily an egalitarian sect, it did, however, provide women with opportunities of autonomy other religions of the time did not. It adopted the Jewish protocols of sexual relations being sanctified in marriage with the added doctrine of forgiveness being offered to sexual acts that occurred “immorally” – the process of confession and forgiveness could be applied to voluntarily and involuntary sexual behaviour – a great advantage of this practice being the enabling of perpetrators to redeem themselves and victims heal.

While Early Christian ideals were rather prudish and narrow there is also a nobility about them. By drawing a firm line in the sand surrounding sexual etiquette they can be commended for helping to put an end to culturally accepted sodomy and stigmatisations of abuse victims.

Christians gave a level of physical autonomy and respect for personal boundaries that was not necessarily present in other spheres of life. I imagine both men and women (who came from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds) may have felt a sense of liberation that enabled them to move around their communities without adverse social expectations to sexually perform in some way.

The problem with what may have been Christianity’s good intentions is that people are complex, we are not all binary and following strict laws is not always practicable. Further, considerations about sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity as discussed in the previous post were not understood 2000 years ago in the same way as they are today.

As Christianity developed, guidelines for sexual behaviours were accompanied by fear tactics that stipulated deviance from binary protocols would result in spending an eternity in hell. To label people as sinners if they do not abide by rigid definitions of male and female, no sex or only sex in marriage, is very severe to say the least.

I view Christian attitudes towards sexual issues as being a bit like mandatory measures taken during Covid-19 epidemics. Initially, harsh rules were implemented like mask-wearing, social distancing, and lockdowns. Without a cure or vaccine, these things were necessary to curb the spread of the disease, then once science caught up they could be eased back again. The “epidemic” Early Christianity was fighting was culturally sustained sexual abuse. They didn’t have a formal #MeToo movement, nonetheless, sexual abuses did occur, potentially on a monumental scale. To fight this “disease” harsh measures had to be implemented, ergo Christian strict sexual guidelines.

Just like mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing does not completely stop the spread of viruses, mandatory celibacy and/or sex only in marriages does not stop all abuse from occurring. We still don’t have a absolute cure for sexual abuse (or Covid) but we are better equipped to deal with it than our ancestors were. We have scientific evidence of non-binary genders, DNA testing can be used help prove rape, and our culture is working towards making the issue of consent better understood by everyone.

Looking back over Church history, I get the impression Christians of all ages struggled with comprehending defining appropriate behaviours and giving consider to individual circumstances. For example, the fourteenth century Christian, Wilgefortis. Her father tried to marry her off to a non-Christian, however, she prayed to God to prevent this from occurring and, subsequently, grew a beard and was considered too repulsive to wed. She was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death by cruxifixction. While demonised by some, others likened her to Christ and prayed to her as a saint (more about Wilgefortis is written here).

Our ancestors were superstitious, really superstitious. From Wilgefortis being considered a witch or a saint, to women’s sexual behaviours being blamed on demonic possession, attitudes towards gender identity and sexual behaviours have a long history of being influenced by irrational beliefs and spiritual theories that suppose there is perfect “nature” of males and females. Moreover, failing to meet these standards is a sin.

Faith Versus Knowledge

New Testament verses that refer to sexual orientation and gender identity are virtually none existent because, quite simply, these concepts did not exist.

In summary, Christian attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender orientation are best understood in relationship to the historical and cultural roots in which they came from. Christian traditions may be applauded for striving to end traumatic sexual relations in the form of abuse towards women and the sodomising of young males, however, these strict guidelines do not adequately address nuances of human variation.

A key issue that Christian forefathers missed is consent. Common contemporary thought places consent of all parties (whether they are male, female, or other) as being paramount to sexual experiences. The ancient world didn’t think about consent like we do, rather, entitlement, expectations, and cultural norms precipitated behaviours. And without modern criminal investigation techniques, like DNA samples from rape victims, if abuses took place, perpetrators could more easily get away with their crimes. How then could Early Christians create standards in which appropriate sexual protocols were followed? … It is a circular argument that leads back to what should have the greatest authority, the logic of humans (and modern science) or God? … Dear Australians #2.5: God’s Authority …

This blog is part of a series that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.


Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex …

Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …


Adultery. (n.d.). Jewish Virtual Library, Www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/adultery-2

Denova, R. (2019). Prostitution in the Ancient Mediterranean. World History Encyclopedia. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1797/prostitution-in-the-ancient-mediterranean/

Halperin, D. M. (2016). prostitution, secular, male. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.7337

How to Party Like an Animal | Psychology Today Australia. (n.d.). http://Www.psychologytoday.com. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/hide-and-seek/202001/how-party-animal \

Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex …

Issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity emerged from the Religious Discrimination bill as two distinct items. But first, let’s start with the basics so as we’re all on the same page.


Sex refers to a person’s gender, male or female. The distinguishing features are genitalia; a male has a phallus and the female a vagina.

Modern thought acknowledges these two binaries do not adequately suit all people. The range of possibilities between male and female has become known as non-binary or other. A person who identifies as being within this range may have more or less male or female physical attributes. In cases some people are born with duel reproduction organs (intersex), while for others, the non-binary aspect of their identity is more nuanced and is not always easily defined by obvious physical markers.

The term non-binary was invented in the 1990s but it’s only really been in the last decade or so it’s established itself as real thing. When I say “thing” I mean enough scientific studies have been done to give credence to the concept that has allowed it to become part of the fabric of generalised human consciousness. These studies include retrospectively looking back over history and identifying evidence to support the notion that humans don’t always neatly fit into the two discrete categories of male and female.

My introduction to non-binary came about when I was studying Visual Arts at university, in 1996/7, and I was researching a *female* artist who had a beard. I cannot recall this artist’s name, but I distinctively remember learning about their challenges and inner conflicts. They said they felt like a freak of nature. They were raised as a typical girl because that was what their outwards genitalia dictated, however, as they entered adolescence facial growth spontaneously appeared. Needless to say, they were bullied by peers for the “abnormality”. In one of their interviews (recorded on film slides), they spoke of their journey of learning to accept their individuality which included going through a phase of religiously shaving their stubble every morning to avoid judgment. Eventually they came to embrace their uniqueness by keeping their breasts (instead of having them surgically removed) and growing a beard. What a brave soul. Thanks to activists like this artist, children born today with similar physical non-binary gender traits have a better chance of being met with understanding and acceptance.

There are also some people who have no outward physical indicators of being a variant of male or female, however, they have an inward feeling or knowing that these two binaries do not suit them. In some cases, these people can have operations so as to alter their outward appearance to match what they believe is their inner gender. Commonly, these people are called transgender. Other variants can include men dressing as women and vice versa without having operations.

People who openly embrace their non-binary nature are vulnerable to persecution by members of the public who judge them for going against “nature”. Christianity is a group known for being prejudice towards expressions of identity that differ to strict guidelines of masculinity and femininity, however, as discussed in relation to the plebiscite, this is not all Christians. Correspondingly, individuals of other faiths (especially Islam) or of no religious standing can also have discriminatory attitudes.

Sexual Intercourse

Classical thought views sexual intercourse as being a reference to the male phallic entering the female vagina. Sex between two binaries has a generalised focus on reproduction that may occur through the male sperm fertilising the female ova.

The degree to which attitudes in traditional sexual intercourse have encompassed an acknowledgement that the act can simply be done for pleasure varies according to culture, customs, social etiquettes, and other variables.

Contemporary thought has a broader version of the sex act. While vagina penetration is still a large focus area, other factors such as arousal, organism, sensual experience, and tactile sensations can also be viewed as variants of intimate relations. By expanding the parameters of sexual intercourse to sexual interactions, acts performed by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, and queers can be more easily acknowledged. Essentially, love making can look different depending upon individual tastes, preferences, and circumstances. Moreover, the sexual interactions are not depend upon binary genitals or gender. Whatever rocks your boat, as the saying goes.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s preference for whom they’d like to have intimate experiences with. The two biggest categories are heterosexual (male and female) and homosexual (male and male or female and female). The other major category is bisexual – a combination of heterosexual and homosexual.

Sexual orientation is not dependant upon outer indicators of sex/gender. Kind of like you don’t know what colour a chocolate clinker is on the inside until you bite into it. Okay, maybe that’s not the best analogy. The point is, the gender a person is attracted to has many faucets. I could get all touchy feely about emotions and attractions, etc., but at the end of the day, it’s up to each individual to decide who his/her/they are attracted to. For a lot of people the journey of discovering what feels authentic to them and what they desire in a partner is a windy road. Those who have to change course, take a u-turn, pay speeding fines, mis-read Google maps, etc., sometimes get a little frustrated by those who are able to take a straight and narrow road to their destination … the vehicle (i.e., gender/binary/non-binary/other) one drives can impact how obstacles are navigated.

Discussions of sexual orientation would not be complete without also acknowledging asexuals. These people have little to no interest in sexual interactions with anyone.

The Dark Side of Sexual Orientation

It’s also possible for some people to have sexual orientations in which they desire to have intimate relations with minors, and/or rape and incest. These latter categories are unambiguously forbidden by contemporary laws because they infringe upon human rights and cause physical, mental, and emotional harm. Understanding the impact of abusive sexual relations is a relatively new concept – Freudian theories that persisted for a lot of the twentieth century gave approval to incest, harassment, and sexual violence (i.e., Freud claimed that when a woman says “no” they really mean “yes”, and then there was all that junk about male homosexuality being a condition that needed to be cured by confronting sexual desire for one’s mother. And let’s not forget how Freud called fourteen year old Dorothy a hysteric because she didn’t feel excitement while being harassed by her father’s mate … hmmm, and that was considered revolutionary psychological development ?).

Sex and Sexual Orientation in Antiquity

Antiquity is a big place, filled with distant places and an assortment of beliefs and practices. Some generalisations can be made, but at the same time, there was much variation. I’m primarily concerned with Australian culture and Christianity, which means looking back at our colonial founders in Europe. As is often the case, all roads lead to Rome. Although, the Romans really just laid down the bitumen over the dirt paths made by the Greeks, so that’s where we’re going first.

Ancient Greece is a rather small blot on the modern Australian atlas. Personally, I learned very little about their culture when I was at school, however, as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate that it was a once a great influencer (if they had an instagram they would have been everyone’s friend).

One of the greatest pieces of dirt about Ancient Greeks (in amongst their wonderful achievements) is that adult men sodomised young males over the age of twelve on a regular basis. I’m not going to pretty this up. It was almost a social expectation that older males who mentored young males were privy to sensual intimacy as sideline activity.

It’s also worthy to note that in Greek society, males were not considered “grown men” until they were covered in hair and/or they were about the age of 30. Athenian men would often marry around this age, to girls who had just started menstruating, 12-16. Spartans had slightly different customs, with both males and females usually being in their early twenties when they took marriage vows, although there are still reports that males practiced sodomy prior this, and 30 was still considered to be a bench mark for taking on positions of responsibly in society.

History has a habit of neglecting herstory, so relations between females aren’t well documented. The status quo of married Ancient Greek women was to be kept locked up in the home with their needlework, however, there is also evidence to suggest some women had choice and freedoms. In regards to sexual orientation, the greatest indicator of female and female relationships comes from the poet Sappho. She wrote so many love sonnets about women that the contemporary words “lesbian” is a derivative of Sappho’s home town, Lesbos.

In lieu of insufficient information, the remaining discussion mainly focused on male and male relationships of antiquity.

Greek men did not perceive engaging in anal intercourse young males to be a homosexual act (the Greeks didn’t have a word for homosexuality) because in their society, as described by Paul Chrystal, (author of In Bed With the Ancient Greeks), a man’s phallic was the main focus of sexual acts, as opposed to a boy’s phallic. “Proper” sex involved an active penetrator and someone being passively penetrated, irrespective of gender. Pederastic sodomy met this requirement by the older male being the dominant and the young man being the passive, just like was expected between a man and a woman. Once the youth became a man, the intimate relations were expected to cease because the dominate versus submissive dynamic was no longer present. To summarise: men sodomising men was not okay, but men sodomising young boys was fine because penetrating young boys was similar to penetrating a women … the logic behind these values can be better understood if “spiritual” factors are seen to have predominate Greek thought over physical attributes, i.e., young boys and women had similar soul attributes, that is they were both considered inferior to a man’s soul.

The Greek concept of boys being like women may seem odd to the contemporary mind, however, it was not that long ago this idea completely diminished. All the way up until the 1900s, young males could be called girls without any offence because “girl” simply meant “child”. The differentiation of young people’s gender only gradually began to emerge from the 1300s onwards.

Sex and Semen

Given that males have a long standing history of believing they are superior to women, it’s not that surprising that male semen was viewed as being more important than the “inferior” female cum. In many instances, male semen was perceived as being the next best thing to sliced bread, not wait, not bread, the invention of wine, no that’s not right either, I mean blood; semen was the next best thing to blood, and blood in the ancient world was very important.

What I’m getting at here is that the ancients view of the world was very different to what it is today. For instance, sperm was understood to be made by blood. Aristotle even went so far as saying something about the best sperm being made by the blood that circulated around the eyes … eyes were seen (pun intended) as being really important conduits for supernatural, I mean “natural”, phenomenon, hence Aristotle’s wisdom also included the report that the glance of a menstruating women could make a copper mirror go cloudy. Personally, I have quite a few concerns about Aristotle’s biology lessons but, nonetheless, many have accepted them verbatim

To summarise, the “natural” order of life in ancient times was no comparison to modern science. Understandings of gender, gender orientation, sexual orientation, and sexual interactions were not the same as contemporary considerations of preferences, consent, etc. And well, if you believe the myths, then the common person’s knowledge of reproduction included the belief that virgins could become pregnant … need I say more?

The Romans

Romans copied a lot of Greek customs, including the initiation-like practice of men sodomising boys. In some instances, the boy could be castrated to keep them more effeminate. You’re not having sex with a man if they have no penis! Before anyone attempts to declare the pagans were barbarians by enforcing a transgender-like procedures, I’m going to be spoiler and mention Christianity made it’s fair share of eunuchs all the way up to the 1900s (more about that in a future blog).

The Jews

If interpreted literally, the Torah/Old Testament gives approval to sexual activities such as rape, incest, and polygamy. However, Judaism also carries the previously mentioned traditions of sexual relations only being recognised as valid if done between the binaries of male and female, and are conducted in matrimony for the purposes of reproduction. The question therefore arises, did Jews interpret their scriptures literally or symbolically? I suspect, there were people in both camps, but mostly symbolically. Those who saw Biblical male and female sexual interactions as allegories did not see need to copy such behaviours in real life (see The Big Bang Theory in Egyptian Mythology for an Egyptian based explanation of how allegorical genderism works in literature).

Outside of Ancient Europe other cultures performed sexual acts contemporary societies judge as abomination, for instance the Sambia people of Papua New Guinea perform ritualised homosexual acts as part of their warrior’s initiation process. 

Women, Sex, and Hysteria

In many respects, the realities of the ancient world are that it was a brutal place in which sex and sexual orientations do not match contemporary understandings. Sexual acts we consider to cause harm and trauma could be conducted with either cultural approval and/or perpetrators of sexual violence having less repercussions than today. Being a woman made matters even more nuanced because women could be demonised for their sexual behaviour with much greater ease than men.

Presumably, there have always been assertive women who were upfront about their sexual needs, however, these personalities are not well documented in his-stories of Greek, Rome, or Judaism. As a general rule, sex, moreover sexual pleasure, was a man’s thing. Women were expected to be “pure” and virginal. Not only were females expected to be subvert and submissive (once a son had reached manhood, they were also considered superior to their mother), women were expected to be happy about this status.

If women showed signs of depression, anxiety, or emotional distress they would be labelled hysterical. Greek medicine men (i.e., Hippocrates – who is acclaimed as being the father of modern medicine) believed hysteria was caused by the womb being out of place. A common cure for this condition was to recommend intercourse so as to put the womb back in its rightful place. The theory was dressed up with “scientific” explanations that referred to the cold and dry vagina needing a penis’ warmth and wetness in order to balance the “humours” and make the woman happy again. This “natural” order was correlated with the theology of four elements of fire, air, water, and earth. Alternatively, a woman’s hysteria diagnosis could be treated by advising they abstain from sex completely. Either way, curing hysteria was related back to sexual activity.

These types of theories and practices relating to women’s anatomy and emotional wellbeing endured for 2500 years! Christian doctor’s who followed Hippocrates’ textbook were more likely to advise abstinence or have midwives massage a woman’s private parts. The only significant challenge to the notion that women needed sex to cure their dysregulated emotional states (now understood to be trauma responses or PTSD) was that they were possessed by demons – a predisposition men supposedly didn’t have because their soul’s were more spiritually advanced than women’s.

For a succinct overview of women’s reproductive organs being viewed as problematic, see Women And Hysteria In The History Of Mental Health by Cecilia Tasca and associates.

A few months ago, I watched the 2011 movie Hysteria, which is by no means academic reference. Nonetheless, it made me wonder if, for most of history of many men been absolutely clueless about feminine sexuality and pleasure? Or perhaps, as a friend of mine suggested, there was just a period of time and/or certain cultures in which men were so focused on the so-called importance of penises and semen that they overlooked feminine experiences? It is something I leave for further pondering.

Moving on

Now we’ve got the basics out of the way we can discuss Christian sex … Dear Australians #2.4: Jesus and Women …

This blog is part of a series that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.


Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …


How to Party Like an Animal | Psychology Today Australia. (n.d.). http://Www.psychologytoday.com. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/hide-and-seek/202001/how-party-animal

The History and Psychology of the Orgy | Psychology Today Australia. (n.d.). http://Www.psychologytoday.com. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/hide-and-seek/201707/the-history-and-psychology-the-orgy


Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights

WW1 and WW2 prompted the whole world to re-evaluate prejudices and the need for equality. In response to Hilter taking racial discrimination to the abominable level of genocide, discussions of basic human rights began to take place.

Australia had direct involvement in the United Nations formation of defining The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The documents contains 30 articles that are designed to ensure peace, liberty, and respect between individuals throughout the world. No single article is supposed to be taken as priority over another. For example, Article 18, which refers to religious freedoms (below), cannot be used as an excuse to attack someone’s honour and reputation, as defined in Article 12 (below). In such cases the right to freedom of religion is restricted so as not to impede other human rights.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Australia and Human Rights

Australia’s acceptance of The Universal Human Rights was a great step towards ensuring a peaceful nation, as was desired by the writers of the constitution. Further, as a nation we are party to seven international human rights treaties. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that the government formalised policies through The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

AHRC is a comprehensive Act that covers religious freedom as follows (from the department of the Attorney-General):

“All persons have the right to think freely, and to entertain ideas and hold positions based on conscientious or religious or other beliefs. Subject to certain limitations, persons also have the right to demonstrate or manifest religious or other beliefs, by way of worship, observance, practice and teaching. Legislation, policies and programs must respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, unless they clearly fall within one of the permissible limitations”.

Permissible limitations include:

  • protection against brainwashing or indoctrination
  • coercion which would impair a person’s freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice
  • conduct that is required or encouraged by a particular religion or belief that can occur criminal penalties
  • times when there is a need to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others
  • the prohibition on advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence

Whilst AHRC defines Australia’s laws pertaining to human rights, specific civil and criminal charges relating to particular breaches are legislated through several other federal, state, and territory Acts.

At a federal level, the balance between religious freedom and acts of discrimination work in conjunction with the following:

  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1986
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Fair Work Act 2009

The Federal Government’s role of protecting people from inequality and harassment overlaps with individual state and territory responsibilities.

State and Territory Legislation

Each Australian state and territories has the capacity to create and enforce its own anti-discrimination legislations. See table below for summary.

Australian Capital TerritoryDiscrimination Act 1991
New South WalesAnti-Discrimination Act 1977
VictoriaEqual Opportunity Act 1977
Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
TasmaniaAnti-Discrimination Act 1998
Northern TerritoryAnti-Discrimination Act 1996
QueenslandAnti-Discrimination Act 1991
South AustraliaEqual Opportunity Act 1984
Western AustralianEqual Opportunity Act 1984
Spent Convictions Act 1988

Australia has come a long way in overcoming bigoted views and discriminatory behaviours driven by religious beliefs. Nonetheless, tensions between differing belief systems and/or people with no religious beliefs still occur. Gaps in federal, state, and territory Acts resulted in the option being formed that either adjustments to the Sexual Discrimination Act needed to be made or a specifically designed religious discrimination act created. The arguments surrounding religious freedoms versus discrimination primarily hit upon issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ergo, the Morrison government chose to try to implement the controversial Religious Discrimination Bill.

Intertwined with the debate were repercussions of the 2017 referendum that allowed same sex marriages to be legally recognised.

80% of eligible Australians voted in the referendum, with results of 61.6% in favour of supporting same sex marriages. Personally, I am one of the 20% who were eligible but did not vote. The reason being that my original voting slip was stolen from my letterbox and I was not able return the replacement slip in time. (I know the original was stolen because it mysteriously turned up in my letterbox several weeks later, coincidentally, following a conversation I had with a neighbour – I think I stirred their conscience.)

The Plebiscite

40% of eligible Australians voted in the 2017 referendum against same sexed marriages. Given that in the 2016 census 52% of Australians identified as Christians it’s possible they made up a good proportion of the those who objected. Islamics (2.6% of the population) may also have had religious ideologies that persuaded them to vote in favour of only recognising opposite sex marriages.

As a general rule, Hinduism (1.9%), Buddhism (2.4%), and Sikhism (0.5%) don’t have any offical stance on the matter, so their votes could not have been based on faith. Judaism (0.4%) also generally has a progressive view of sexuality, except for fundamentalists, of which there are not many in Australia.

As for any of the 30% of Australians who identified as non-religious or other spiritual beliefs, who may have voted against same sexed marriages, they presumably did so due to personal convictions (or lack of education about sexual orientation).

Based upon the circumstantial evidence of many forms of Christianity having adverse attitudes towards homosexuality and transgenderism, I am quietly confident that it was this sector of the population who predominately objected to same sex marriages.

Of course, not all Christians agree with Biblical inferences that homosexuals are an abomination to humankind. If that was the case, and all Christians voted in the referendum, then the Christian ethos probably would not have prevailed and same sex marriage would not have been legalised. I guesstimate 40-50% of Christians voted against same sex marriages.

Part of Morrison’s selling point of a Religious Discrimination bill was to “bring balance” to religious freedoms. In other words, people who were pissed that the majority of Australian citizens democratically voted in favour of same sex balance, needed appeasing, or more precisely, given the right to discriminate. Somehow, this was going to fill gaps and make things fair for everyone.

Sexual orientation and gender identity issues have an extensive history that extends far beyond Australia’s colonisation and the formation of organised religions like Christianity, and looking at these helps to shed light on current arguments … Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex …

This blog is part of a series that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.


Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Main Features – Results. Abs.gov.au; c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of Statistics. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/1800.0

Rights in Australia – Parliamentary Education Office. (n.d.). Peo.gov.au. https://peo.gov.au/understand-our-parliament/how-parliament-works/system-of-government/rights-in-australia/

Feature image: Pix4free.org – link to – https://pix4free.org/

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …

Dear Australians,

I’m sure many of you are as relieved as I am that the Religious Discrimination Bill (also known as the Bigot Bill) was not passed, thus preventing religious groups from being given the right discriminate against . However, what some people appear to have missed is that the bill was always about much more than giving bigots the right to legally judge, humiliate, and vilify others due to their sexual identity and orientation. Behind the smokescreen of celebrating sexual liberations, the nuances of religious abuse and coercive practices remain unaddressed.

As a therapist, I advocate the practice of not letting issues hide under the metaphorical carpet. While the Religious Discrimination Bill has been shelved indefinitely, the whole saga brought up a few things we best discuss now before things boil over again. Let’s take this opportunity to reflect and have a heart to heart about what has taken place. I’ll start. I’ve got quite a bit to say so I recommend you make yourself a cuppa …

In response to my first letter to Australians, Dear Australians, We Need Coercive Control Laws Not a Religious Discrimination Bill, I received the feedback from someone who said: “I didn’t even know Australia already had freedom of religion laws”. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. From police officers to common citizens, there is a lack of understanding of current legalisations relating to religious practices which, once understood, provide insights into deceptive government behaviour that should raise everyone’s eyebrows. Three key points are:

  1. The Religious Discrimination bill was an attempt to undermine the Australian constitution.
  2. Historical events in Australia and Biblical times are not well known or understood.
  3. Freedom of Religion cannot be discussed without also considering religious abuse.

As with many complex issues, in order to appreciate how factors interrelate, examining history explains a lot about how we came to current circumstances. I’ll start with Australian history and why we are a secular nation.

Penal Colony and Church Act

Australia began as a penal colony with convicts being sent from the United Kingdom. At the time of the first fleet, 1788, the dominate religion in England was Protestant Christianity, Church of England. The supreme governor was their monarch, King George III. (The current Supreme Governor of the Church of England is Queen Elizabeth II).

Convicts sent to Australia in 1788 were expected to attend weekly outdoor Church services. The first church building established in Sydney Cove, 1793, was Anglican (another way of saying Church of England). The chapel was burnt down in six years later. The arson attack is believed to have been done by disgruntled convicts who objected to being forced to attend; this many have been inspired by atheistic beliefs or devotion to an alternative form of Christianity.

Most of the convicts were Anglican, however, one tenth were Irish Catholics, with smaller percentages of other faiths, like nonconformist Protestants. Angst between Christian denominations began in Europe during the reformation era (c.1517-1648).

When King Henry VIII founded the Church of England in 1534 many Catholics fled to Ireland, thus preceding English/Irish conflicts were often Anglican/Catholic tensions. A cycle of revolts and tensions persisted between English Protestants and Irish Catholics for many centuries.

In 1798, when a major conflict broke out in Ireland, Catholic rebels were transported to New South Wales.

In 1804, Catholics in New South Wales attempted to overthrow British rule. Consequently, Catholics priests were forbidden from practicing clerical rites in Australia for 16 years.

To help ease religious tensions, in 1836 Governor Bourke introduced the first Church Act. This provided subsidies for land and the building of chapels to Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian denominations equally. Members of the Anglican Church objected to the Act because they believed the Church of England should have more distinction over other Christians.

Overall, the Church Act successfully brought about a sense of peace, which was further enhanced with later amendments that made provisions for Jewish, Methodist, and Baptist communities. Despite government support for all religions, segregation took place with Catholic-only or Presbyterian-only workplaces. “No Catholics/Jews/Protestants/Other need apply” was not an uncommon on employment ads. Social expectations of marrying within one’s faith remained the norm. Name calling and derogatory remarks about other’s beliefs was commonplace, even amongst children who were echoing their parents prejudices.

Australia Constitution 1901

As Australia moved towards forming a constitution, the men in Commonwealth government roles had varying Christian heritages. Through a conscious awareness of how conflicts can arise from any one religion dominating others, like what occurred in Europe and Australia’s early colonial days, section 116 of Australia’s constitution stated:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

According to Australia’s first census in 1911, 96% percent of Australians considered themselves to be Christian. Thus, it can be assumed that section 116 was aimed at ensuring no “Christian” religion was to be imposed. I highly doubt there was foresight to perceive the great diversity of religion that Australia would have in 2022, nonetheless, its intention come to fruition, mostly.

The high number of Christians in Australia’s early days did not include First Nations people. Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders were viewed as being more like animals than people, let alone communities who deserved to have the right to freely exercise their religion. It was not until 1971 that First Nation People were indiscriminately counted in an Australian census.

Between 1860 and 1870 landowners could acquire indigenous workers then force them to work on sugar fields, as pearl divers, on cattle and sheep properties, and other hard laborious positions. If paid, it was only a fraction of what white workers received; some reports claiming indigenous Australians received 3% of Europeans earnings. (Reminder: Scott Morrison has a very narrow view of slavery looks like.)

Mistreatment of indigenous Australians was commonplace and long standing. All the way up to the 1960s, countless Australian aboriginals were taken from their families and incarcerated. Many were forced to live in (Christian) missions or on reserves with freedoms to move around cities and towns only allowed if they had an exemption certificate. These were dubbed “dog tags” and in order to get one, individuals had to promise to give up their culture, language, family, and religious beliefs.

The secular basis of the Australian constitution was not specifically designed to be tolerant of Eastern faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism, or Sikhism, either. From the time of the gold rush onwards, Asians, particularly Chinese, were the target of racial discrimination. From additional taxes being placed upon them if they wanted a gold mining license, to the first Immigration Restriction Act and Regulations of 1861, racism towards “heathens” prevailed.

The government’s white’s only polices, banning immigration from all non-European countries, came into effect in 1901, the same time as the constitution.

As for those who wanted to follow traditional beliefs, like Celtics, or other paganism, section 116 wasn’t designed for them either. The Christian assumption that such practices were demonic prevailed, as evidenced by state laws that forbade witchcraft, sorcery, and fortune telling. In 2005, Victoria became the last state to remove laws prohibiting paganism and occult-based beliefs and practices.

Christianity has a long history of non-tolerance towards alternative belief systems in a variety of contexts. It’s an attitude that supposes indigenous Australians, Asians, pagans, or anyone other than a Christian, have inferior religious beliefs, therefore they don’t really matter. (As I’ve discussed before, Christian supremacy has significant links to Aristotelian philosophy.) Colonialist Australia inevitably inherited some of its attributes of superiority from its English roots, but our constitution is secular, so perhaps our hearts were in the place and we just need to do a bit of reflection?

Australia’s move away from bigotry and hatred has occurred in steps, baby steps … alongside our progression has been an increased global awareness of human rights … stay tuned for the next blog – Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights.

Over the coming days I will be publishing more letters to Australians that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.


Korff, J. (2021, March 29). Creative Spirits: Australia has a history of Aboriginal slavery. Creative Spirits. https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australia-has-a-history-of-aboriginal-slavery#was-there-ever-aboriginal-slavery-in-australia

National Museum of Australia – Bourke Church Act. (n.d.). http://Www.nma.gov.au. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/bourke-church-act

Places of worship | Religion, church and missions in Australia. (2016, May 17). State Library of NSW. https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/stories/religion-church-and-missions-australia/places-worship

Early Christian Symbols, the Anchor, Peacock, and Wand

The image of Jesus dying on a cross is a common icon of contemporary Christianity, however, such symbolism is a far cry from how Early Christians depicted their saviour. Evidence in the form of artworks from Early Christian households and catacombs reveal a very different set symbolism to what today’s followers are familiar with. Three examples of lost Christian symbolism include the anchor, peacock, and wand. 

  1. Anchor 

Anchor in the the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, 2nd Century (Source: Persecution Worldwide)

An anchor suggests being secured to a location, like a boat whose anchor is tied to the shore. It was a metaphor used to infer a Christian needs to secure (anchor) themselves to Jesus Christ, especially when the seas of life are rough and windy. This interpretation is supported by Hebrews 6:19-20 in which anchor is specifically referred to as being “hope”:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. 

(Jesus being a High Priest of the Melchizedek order is an issue for another day.)

2. Peacock

Sarcophagus of Archbishop Theodoric, marble, 6th century; in the church of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

Ancient legends (which the people of Jesus’ lifetime were familiar with) claimed a peacock’s flesh couldn’t riot. Therefore, the peacock was used as a symbol of Jesus’ immortality. Further, peacocks represent rebirth because each year they lose their feathers and regrow them. Thus the peacock was also a reference to Jesus’ resurrection and annual celebrations of his birth (some sources say peacocks begin regrowing their feathers around December 25 each year, however, I haven’t been able to confirm this information). Coincidentally, symbolising Jesus as a peacock went out vogue around the same time as Christianity became the official religion of Rome. 

3. Wand

Early Christian depiction of Jesus performing magic with a wand

Source: Biblical Archaeology Society

Early Christians depicted Jesus as being like a magician who healed people by waving a wand. This symbolism could be a link to Moses’ staff (that he raised to magically part waters). Alternatively, given that Christianity has Greek roots as well as Hebrew, the symbolism could be a transference from Hermes and Athena who both waved wands to perform magic. Either way, the depiction of Jesus with a wand presented an easy to read symbol that denoted magical powers that people living in the first century could understand. 

Why the Change of Symbolism? 

Christianity did not evolve in a vacuum, it borrowed heavily from the cultures it emerged from, namely Hebrew and Greek. Most people were illiterate, therefore using pre-existing symbols like the anchor, peacock, and wand enabled easy and effective transfer of concepts. 

The transformation of Early Christian symbols into alternatives which today’s Christians are more familiar with coincides with Emperor Constantine’s conversion and Christianity becoming the main religion of Rome. 

While the essence of Christian faith continued to promote the meanings behind the old symbolism, new iconography that was more appealing to a broader Roman audience developed. In contemporary media studies this is referred to as using codes and conventions that reflect social values. 

To the Roman mind, the anchor, peacock, and wand did not evoke the strength of a saviour who was destined to rule the world. To demonstrate Jesus was master of all, He had to be shown as being stronger than pagan Gods. Therefore, the Early Christian’s image of Jesus as a young, shaven, young boy, transformed into a larger than life mature bearded man, not unlike His revivals Jupiter and Neptune. The process of rebranding Christianity from a small fringe sect of believers into a mainstream religion occurred gradually between the 400s – 600s. 

For more discussions on Early Christianity and Symbolism see https://renaissance-well-beings.com/

Raw Flesh, St Valentine, Forbidden Marriages, and Great Uncertainty

One of the wonderful things about the develop of technology is that facts can be checked in an instant. Today, February 14, which is known throughout the Westernised world as Valentines Day has presented such an opportunity.

While casually scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post about the Ancient Roman Festival of Lupercalia and it’s links to Christianity and Saint Valentine. The story was extraordinary, so I decided to check out the facts, and as bizarre as some of the antidotes are, the story rings true, well kind of.


Lupercalia was a she-wolf Roman goddess who nurtured the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

Capitoline Wolf (Capitoline She-Wolf), c.1200s, Louve, Paris

(Source: Public Domain)

Each year on February 15, the Romans partook in a festival that involved animal sacrifice (goat and dog to be precise), dancing, and encouragement of sensual pleasures. Part of the tradition involved two priests running around with sections of the sacrificed animals and slapping the bloody flesh on women. To be hit was an omen of fertility. You could say this was authentic Roman(ce) behaviour.

As the years progressed, and Christianity became the formal religion of Rome (313 CE), the pagan festival lost popularity. In 494 CE it was completely forbidden by Pope Gelasius I. The celebration of St Valentine on February 14 is generally considered to be a Christianised Holy Day designed to take the attention away from the pagan Lupercalia festival. Moreover, the aim was to encourage a more measured, spiritualised version of love. In other words, traditions like poetry and note writing were considered more tasteful than slapping a single women with a hunk of raw flesh. It is times like these I completely agree with Christian values.

How does St Valentine fit into the picture?

Legends says Emperor Claudius II Gothicus (reigned c.268-70) cancelled marriages so as to encourage more men to fight in battle. Apparently, males were hesitant to go out and get killed while trying to kill other men in order for the Emperor to take control of more men, lands, possessions, and everything. Why would men be hesitant? The Emperor decided it was the usual cause of all men’s problems, women. Clearly, it was the wives and girlfriends stopping men from obeying their Emperor. If the men couldn’t get engaged or married then that would surely encourage them to go to war.

If the scenario sounds a bit doggy, then you’re not alone. Concise records (if they ever existed) to confirm these events have not survived. But since when has truth got in the way of a good story?

Popular opinion declares that the Christian priest, Valentine, married couples in secret, thus spoiling Emperor Claudius’ scheme. Subsequently, Valentine was hunted down, put in prison, and killed on February 14. If true, I’m not really sure how to rate it as a romantic gesture, but is it a good example of Christians being martyred for their oppositional behaviour, not their beliefs per se.

Saint Valentine Blessing an Epileptic

(Source: Public Domain)

Several other stories are also in circulation, such as Valentine falling in love with his prison guard’s daughter and sending her a love note signed “Your Valentine”. Christian priests weren’t forbidden to marry back in those days, so it’s not impossible. Still, not to sure where it ranks on the romance score board. Personally I’d be a bit creeped out if I were that prison guard’s daughter. I mean, the guy was on dead row, was it true love or just opportunity?

There are also reports of Valentine miraculously curing a judge’s daughter of blindness. This swayed the law official into converting to Christianity, and resulted in the release of several Christians from prison. (Saints in those days seemed to be much better at performing miracles than more recent eras.)

The Catholic Online website presents a few more theories about Valentine without giving absolute credence to any of them. It does, however, concede that there is a real St Valentine whose feast day is February 14, despite the Church not really knowing who he really is or why they are honouring him.


Somewhere in the mix of Valentines Day traditions are rumours that Juno Fructifier celebrations took place on February 14. Juno, the chief Goddess of Rome, was celebrated with references to childbirth, and husbands giving wives presents. While this may be accurate, other sources indicate Juno was celebrated on March 1. The dates are close enough to speculate that Juno worship influenced St Valentine’s Day celebrations, albeit, it isn’t a perfect match.

Final Word: Uncertainty

Love is a great thing to celebrate and February 14 is as good a day as any; however, as for the reasons why it has become a tradition, I have a great level of uncertainty about the justifications. Then again, word romance itself refers to imitating the strategies Roman soldiers used to woo women, so maybe the all the legends, stories, and antidotes are appropriate?

Did Romans Kill Jesus Twice?: The Beardless Versus the Bearded Jesus

Most Christians think of Jesus as being a bearded man. This is not surprising given all the paintings, movies, and other forms of Christian iconography that present him in this manner. Therefore, it often comes as a surprise for people to learn Early Christians had a different image of their saviour, one of a clean shaven youth. To appreciate how Jesus aged and grew a beard, it’s helpful to go back to the basics.

Early Christianity, c.30-313 CE 

According to biblical accounts, Christianity began with a person known as Jesus of Nazareth wandering around Galilee talking to crowds. He spoke in metaphors then later explained the symbolic meaning of the parables to twelve devoted followers (Matthew 13:34). Jesus also established some traditions (like blessing bread and wine) and passed on doctrines relating to life on earth and in the afterlife.

After dying on a cross, Jesus rose from the dead, and his disciples were blessed with the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). The disciples then became apostles (Greek for messengers) and wandered the Roman Empire and beyond spreading what was called the Good News.

In some instances, the apostles spoke to crowds, however, this was dangerous because the messages they conveyed were considered to be a threat by some authorities. Further, while some level of religious tolerance existed, failure to honour Roman deities was unlawful. The Jewish community had an exemption from this law and some Early Christians attempted to argue that because Christianity was an offshoot of Judaism they should have the same privilege. However, many were unsuccessful and died as martyrs for refusing to hail Jove, Zeus, Aphrodite, etc.

As an alternative to preaching and practicing the religion in open spaces, Early Christians gathered in private houses. Exactly what took place in these gatherings is unclear. It is generally assumed there was some sort of shared meal (or Eucharist), alongside sharing Jesus’ parables, having theological discussions, and communal prayer sessions.

Churches founded by the apostles and/or affiliates of the apostles were based in Athens, Antioch, Ethiopia, Constantine, Armenia, Milan, and other locations around Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor. Particularly influential Churches were established in Corinth (by Paul), Alexandria (by Mark), and Rome (by Peter). Each Church had an overseer, which in Ancient Greek was called a bishop. The apostles were the first bishops, and they passed on the responsibility of overseeing Churches to others.

One of the original roles of Church overseers was to ensure each developing Christian community maintained a level of unity with others. There was no formal Bible in these humble beginnings, information was mostly passed on through word of mouth, with, of course, supplementary letters that later became part of the New Testament (i.e., the epistles or written communications from overseers to emerging Christian communities, many of which are credited to the apostle, Paul).

The Christian Bible does not contain any detailed account of Jesus’ physical appearance, therefore when Christians started painting his image, they did so in accordance with verbal information or out of their imagination. Potentially the oldest example is in a house Church in Dura-Europos, c.232, modern day Syria. 

A fresco painted on the wall of this dwelling depicts the Biblical scene of Jesus healing a paralysed man. The screenshot below taken from a short documentary video shows Jesus as a beardless man. 

Fresco of Jesus Healing a Paralysed Man, Dura Europos, screenshot 6:08 

Other examples of Jesus depicted in this manner are rare but not entirely uncommon. The beardless Jesus was also often portrayed with a wand that he waved around to conduct miracles (Also see: Biblical Archaeology Society: Jesus Holding a Magic Wand?)

Early Christains sometimes faced persecution, although this wasn’t necessarily as rampant as some accounts like to give. I imagine the situation was a bit like the number of QAnon believers who get arrested isn’t as high as the actual number of people who follow QAnon theories; similarly, the Early Christians who got persecuted didn’t necessarily experience this because of their beliefs per se, but because they were causing civil unrest. (Please note, I’m not using this example to try to imply any truth or falsity about QAnon or Christianity, it’s just a way of conceptualizing it was rebellious behaviours and stirring up troubles on the streets which led to people like Emperor Nero giving orders for Christian executions.)

On a theological level, some philosophers disagreed with Christianity, like Porphyry of Tyre (c.234–305 CE), wrote treatises Against the Christians. Therefore, considering Early Christians did get a bit of a bad rap, it’s not surprising many tried to stay under the radar.

Emperor Constantine (Reign: 306-37)

Everything changed In 313 CE when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. His personal conversion was recorded as being due to having a vision of a cross in the sky and being told “In this sign conquer”. Subsequently, the Roman army’s standard incorporated the Christian Chi Rho, ⳩. (The Chi Rho comprises of the first two letters of the Greek spelling of Christ, ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, superimposed upon one another. X + P = ⳩.)

Constantine’s labarum, with a wreathed Chi Rho from an antique silver medal

(Source: Wikimedia Commons).

With Christianity’s rise to prominence, house Churches gave way to buildings that were funded by the Roman government. Hence, a relationship between Church and State developed.

Constantine ordering a council meeting (the Council of Nicea) to clarify doctrines and unify Christianity. The religion had become fractured with different groups having opposing opinions regarding issues like celibacy (and self castration), the Virgin birth (not everyone believed this was real), and the nature of the trinity (some believed God created Jesus, others believed Jesus always co-existed with God). Once matters were decided, opinions became canonised law. (The underlying assumption was along the lines of, when groups of wise men debated topics their final conclusions are the result of God speaking through them, therefore, must be honoured.) Once Christian canons were formed, anyone who disagreed could be labeled a heretic and sent into exile.

Under Emperor Constantine’s influence, leadership roles within Christianity became more formalised and a ranking system, like that of Roman military, began to develop. Apostle Peter’s leadership, as the overseer of the Church in Rome, was especially honoured. The Bible verse in which Jesus says “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) justified the successive line of bishops in Rome being distinguished above others. Peter’s lineage was the overseers of overseers, bishops of bishops, in other words, Papal rulership.

The first reference to Roman bishop-hood was Bishop/Pope Siricius (c.334-399), although the title and power wasn’t fully inaugurated till a few centuries later.

Romanised Christianity 

Emperor Constantine was the ruler of Rome, and his endorsement of Christianity Romanised beliefs and customs.

Constantine’s cousin and successor, Emperor Julian, tried to revert Rome back to the traditional Gods and Goddesses, for example, by putting funds into restoring pagan temples. However, his efforts were unsuccessful, partly due to having a short reign (361-63). He died due to a spear wound obtained in the interlude of a battle with Persians. It is rumoured the fatal blow was not the enemies (Persians), but a Christian, moreover, a Roman Christian.

Julian was succeeded by Emperor Jovian (363-4), a Christian who detested paganism, thus funds went back into Christian Churches and away from pagan temples.

Emperor Valentinian I (364-75) was the next in line and he too supported Christianity. Valentinian reinstated many Christians into positions of power, like Constantine had done before him. Valentinian also handed the Eastern half of Rome over to his brother, Valens, to rule as co-Emperor while he focused on the West. 

Moving on a bit, Eastern Rome became known as the Byzantine Empire and it maintained Imperial authority until 1453 when the Ottoman Empire took control of the capital city, Constantinople. In the West, Rome went through a series of challenges before completely falling in 476. However, this may be viewed as only a political collapse; the role of Bishop in Rome had increased in power by this point, albeit, Papal rulership was not recognised throughout all of Christendom. Many viewed the Byzantine Emperor as head of the Church, and they had a significant say (to say the least) about who sat on Peter’s throne in Rome. Thus, at this point in history it is painstakingly clear that the grass roots of Christianity had subsided and Church leadership positions were held by affiliates of families who were powerful, wealthy, and of nobel status.

Now back to Jesus’ and his beard … 

One of the first appearances of Jesus with a beard comes from a Roman catacomb, late fourth century (after Constantine had Christianised Rome). He is depicted with the iconic halo and the Alpha and Omega letters which symbolise his eternal nature from the beginning to end.

Bust of Christ. c. Late 300s. Mural painting from the catacomb of Commodilla.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Another example of an early bearded Jesus, also from Rome, is the Apsis Mosaic, c.410-17CE. Not only is Jesus a mature man, his grand status is emphasised by gold paint and his stature is larger than those around him. This is a far cry from Early Christian depictions of a modestly cloaked young Jesus who blended in with his peers (see images below for comparison).

Apsis Mosaic, c.410-17CE, Santa Pudenziana, Rome

(Source: Wikimedia Commons

Christ Teacher, c.300s, Catacombe di Domitilla, Rome

(Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s speculated that the grand new Jesus look was part of a broader propaganda campaign run by Roman leadership to sway pagans towards Christianity. Like todays internet memes, the craze needed time to build some traction before it really took off. The young looking Jesus still featured in some pieces like Baptism of Christ, all the way up to the late 400s/early 500s.

Baptism of Christ. c.late 400s/early 500s, Mosaic in Arian Baptistry. Ravenna, Italy,

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In the Italian mosaic above, Jesus is the young man in the center of the image with a halo around his head; he is submerged in water (the River Jordan), while John the Baptist, on the right, gives him blessings. The dove above represents the Holy Spirit coming down. The figure on the left is usually interpreted as being the personification of the river – in the ancient world it was normal to view bodies of water as gods.

I wonder if the inclusion of a Roman God in a Christian scene was a means of appeasing old laws in the event the government decided to revert back to paganism and insisted Roman Gods were honoured? Alternatively, it’s plausible Christians continued to believe bodies of water had spiritual properties that warranted recognition; the fusion of pagan beliefs with Christianity has many nuances.

As an alternative theory to Early Christians depictions of Jesus being based upon eyewitness accounts, his youthfulness as the main icon of the religion, can be interpreted as symbolic of Christianity being a young religion.

Those in the camp who believe Jesus was always a symbolic character can also note his early appearance was similar to the Greco-Roman God, Apollo:

Apollo of the Belvedere, c. 120–140 CE, Vatican Muesum, Vatican City. (Apollo was associated with healing, medicine, light, truth, music, and much more. Apollo was the son of the Sun God, Helios.)

(Source: Wikipedia Commons)

By the end of the fourth century, Christianity was not so young. It had become a major religion, and the leadership of Rome who were promoting the faith were trying to convert citizens on a grand scale. You could say, the youthful Jesus did not pass marketing promotion standards. Jesus needed to be seen as all powerful, a true rival to his opponents, like Jupiter or Neptune (Zeus and Poseidon in Greek).

Below is an example of one of Jesus’ competitor deities, Neptune. Neptune is the central figure, his divine status emphasized by a halo around his head (halos were standard symbol to differentiate the divine from the earthly). Neptune’s left hand holds a trident pointing upwards to the heavens, while his right holds a fish pointing to the sea. He is riding a water chariot with four houses, to the left is a centaur and to the right a goddess. Surrounding the central image are references to the four seasons, as symbolized by women in various states of dress, and in between are farming duties being carried out by male figures.

Triumph of Neptune, c.200s, Roman mosaic Bardo Museum Tunis

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The grand status of Neptune being promoted by sporting a beard may be missed on contemporary audiences, but not so to people of the past. To Greco-Roman citizens, a beard indicated superiority and intellect, hence, Zeus, the supreme God of Olympus, also had a beard. (Zeus was known as Jupiter or Jove to Romans.)

Laurel-wreathed head of Zeus on a gold stater, Lampsacus, c. 360–340 BC

(Source: Public Domain)

Zeus was ether, earth, sky, and everything, so if he had a beard then surely there was truth in the beauty of a beard? Greek philosophers certainly thought so. This line of thinking prevailed all the way up to the 1700s when universities funded studies to ascertain empirical proof of facial hair being a physical indicator of superiority and intellect. Their hypothesis was not supported, but the fact that it was an academic discussion goes to show how far the impression went.

When Christian artists began portraying Jesus with a beard, it can be presumed they were doing so with the knowledge that the facial hair would be associated with superiority, as opposed to showing a beardless Jesus.

Jesus’ beard raised his image from that of a vibrant young person who mingled with commoners to that of an authoritative, wise man.

Christ Pantocrator, c.500s. Jesus as a saviour with a beard, Saint Catherine’s Monastery,Sinai.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the above example of an early Christ Pantocrator (i.e., pantocrator means “Almighty” or “all-powerful”) it is interesting to note Jesus is holding a book rather than holding a weapon, like Neptune’s trident or Zeus’ thunder bolt. Conversely, the Book could be viewed as a tool which Jesus metaphorically defeats his enemies (i.e., pagans? Jewish? Muslims?)

Arguably, no Early Christian associated Jesus with an authoritative text because none existed. Jesus was the living Word (John 1:1,14). The Christian Bible was a Roman invention.

The Roman Bible, the Vulgate …

In the later part of the fourth century, Pope Damasus hired a leading scholar of the era, Jerome, to get the job done. Jerome worked tirelessly for years translating Hebrew and Greek writings to produce the first full Old and New Testament in Latin. The Bible was completed in about 400 CE and became known as the Vulgate. It was the only legal version of the Bible for several hundred years.

Jerome’s work involved sorting through a multitude of documents and different versions of the Jesus narrative. Some accounts were completely thrown out and labeled heresy, while what remained became canonized. Jerome’s job description included placing the writings in an appropriate order, however, chapters didn’t have names like today’s Christians are familiar with, that came much later.

Much could be said about Jerome’s work, and he’s certainly received a lot of criticisms over the years. To put it briefly, given the Romanisation of Christianity changed the traditional appearance of Jesus from a young, freshly shaved youth with a wand, to an old man with a beard and book, I don’t hold much faith in the authenticity or authority of said book (although the Vulgate’s description of Moses with horns is pretty cool!)

I am by no means the first person to find it oddly ironic that Jesus nominated Peter, the bishop of Rome, to be the head of the Church. This was more than convenient to Constantine (and his predecessors) who wanted make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, despite a multitude of issues, Jerome’s work is still the backbone of contemporary Christianity.

By the end of the sixth century, depictions of Jesus with a beard were commonplace throughout Eastern and Western Churches. Specifically, the iconography of Jesus holding the Bible in his left hand and giving a blessing with his right was particularly enduring. 

Medallion with Christ from an Icon Frame. c. 1100, Byzantine Empire

(Source: The Met Museum

The transformation of the Early Christian Jesus into the Roman version was more than skin deep. The first believers focused on the Good News of imminent peace on earth. Consequently, they favoured a representation of the Christ as a Good Shepherd who looked after his flock. 

The Good Shepherd, c. 300–350, at the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome

(Source: Wikwand)

The Good Shepherd, c.425, Ravenna, Italy

(Source: Wikwand)

The further one moves into Romanised Christianity, the images become more about suffering than prosperity, as notable in depictions of the crucifixion. No Early Christians depicted the crucifixion, this type of imagery did not come into vogue until appropriately 1000 CE. 

A crowded Gothic narrative treatment, workshop of Giotto, c. 1330

(source: Wikimedia Commons)


As a final twist in the beardless versus bearded Jesus saga, in Christ’s lifetime Jewish tradition required men to have beards, however, the Roman fashion was to be beardless. Therefore, as a Jew, you’d expect Jesus had a beard, and it may have been this assumption that lead to facial hair being depicted (or it was a way to appeal to Jews?). But if that is the case, why did Early Christians depict a shaved face? Is this yet another example of Jesus transgressing against Jewish laws?

Symbolic representations have a way of adhering to the cultural values of their creators, and conversely they shape the values of developing cultures. The young beardless version of Jesus says something about the Early Christians that is not present in the Romanised version of a middle-aged, bearded man. It is as though the Romans killed Jesus twice, firstly in the flesh, and secondly in symbolic iconography.


Jeremy Norman’s History of Information. (n.d.). The Earliest Christian House Church, With the Most Ancient Christian Paintings : History of Information. http://Www.historyofinformation.com. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?entryid=3499

Rattini, K. B. (n.d.). Constantine—facts and information. http://Www.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://api.nationalgeographic.com/distribution/public/amp/culture/article/constantine

Stewart, A. C. (2011). The Earliest History of the Christian Gathering: Origin, Development and Content of the Christian Gathering in the First to Third Centuries. By VALERIY A. ALIKIN. The Journal of Theological Studies, 62(2), 732–734. https://doi.org/10.1093/jts/flr062

Christian Principles, What are They?: Supplemental to Dear Australians, We Need Coercive Control Laws Not. Religious Discrimination Bill

In response to my open letter to all Australians aimed at raising awareness of the implications of the Morrison government’s legalisation of religious abuse, sorry “Religious Discrimination Bill”, I received a comment stating that Australia was built upon Christian principles and therefore it should continue to do so. Another commenter then accurately pointed out that Australia was secular, not Christian.

Secular politics means our government is supposed to work independently of religious or spiritual matters. Therefore, to have a federal Religous Discrimination bill that overrides all other discrimination acts in each state and territory is a bold move away from nurturing a secular society that is supposed to support all religious and non-religious people equally. I have made my views of Morrison’s apparent biases and hidden agenda to tilt the scales of secularity towards religions very clear, so I won’t flog that horse any more.  

Having said that, I think it’s also good to consider the idea of “Christian principles”. Many Australians have some form of Christian heritage, so what are these principles that we supposedly need a law designed specifically to protect them? 

Crickey, there so many versions of Christianity: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Methodist, Eastern Churches, Latter Day Saints, Reformed Christian, and many more, including Pentecostal. However, on a theological level, all these variations of Christianity involve believing in one God, who is the creator of heaven and earth, a Nazarene dude who lived 2000 years ago is the saviour, and if you just believe in these two things then you’re on your way to heavenly bliss once you’ve kissed this mortal toil goodbye. 

But wait, there’s more. To embody these beliefs you need love. You need to love thy neighbours and you need to love enemies. Everything about Christianity after these factors, I would argue, has more to do with traditions, rituals, rules, guidelines, specifications, and cultural values that have been added on to the core principle of Christianity, love. 

Love, in the Christian sense, is supposeded to be non-discriminatory. Jesus set the tone for this standard by hanging out with corrupt tax collectors, the bourgeois of fishing villages, ex-prostitutes, and crowds of everyday people. I’m yet to find a convincing Biblical text were Jesus said we should love everyone but discriminate against the gays (yes they existed 2000 years ago, yawn), and the Jews (Jesus was Jewish, why would he discriminate against them, unless the were pompous hypocrites?), women because they have less superego than men, sorry I mean spirit (Freudian appropriation of Greek theology came much later), or any other criteria. As for those foreigners, especially those with a different faith, I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about being a good Surmaritian. But what would I know? I’m not a religious leader nor a pastor. Maybe I’m just too simple and cannot see all the regulations around loving people like some other Christians can?

Perhaps loving everyone is not the core principle of Christianity? I mean, if it were, why would we need to create a legal document that says a person’s religious beliefs need to be protected? Of course, the Religious Discrimination bill isn’t just about Christianity. The next biggest religion in Australia is Islam (I’m skipping over atheism because it’s not a religion; my apologies to the 30% of Australians associate themselves with this group). I’m not a Muslim, however, I’m aware that Islamics have five pillars of faith. They’re kind of like the Christian theological principles of believing in one God, honouring Muhammad (=/≠ Christian’s honouring of Jesus), and maintenance of traditions, etc. Beyond all that, love of Allah is really important and can be shown by loving others.

The next biggest religion in Australia is Buddhism. This has a very non-attachment kind of philosophy, however, paradoxically encourages love in all scenarios. Kind of like love everyone equally but stay non-attached to expectations and rigidity. Buddhism doesn’t have a supreme God that demands to be worshiped but it is open to the idea that spiritual beings are a thing. 

The last big religion I’ll mention is Hinduism. It’s the oldest known religion around the world and recognises thousands of Gods and Goddesses. Crudely, it’s each to his own regarding which ones should be worshiped. (I find it fascinating that Zoroastrianism – an ancient Babylon/Persian religion – can be traced back to the ancient Hindu texts, the Vedas. And subsequently, Zoroastrianism has links to Judaism and Christianity – stories for another time.) Hinduism places love in the same realm as the divine. 

I know I’m super simplifying complex religious beliefs here, but the bottom line is that regardless of deity/ies a religion venerates,  love for others is a really important component of all major religions (I suspect a lot of atheists also rank love for others as being important). 

Love, unconditional love, means being non-discriminatory. At least, I wish it was that simple. The infamous Hillsong Church illustrates this point well with their message that they love everyone, but if you’re gay then you can’t have an active leadership or ministerial role. Apparently, according to Hillsong, the apostle Paul was super clear on this topic. However, if you ask others, Paul was a clear as mud, and really what he was expressing was the equivalent of an ancient #metoo sentiment. Who should win such an argument? Those who believe the confusing transcript of an ancient text that has had dubious re-writings? (Islam has the similar issues.) Or modern psychological science that says homosexuality is not an illness? (Even psychoanalytic associations have apologised for Freudian ideas that homosexuality is condition that needs to be cured. I’m still patiently waiting on psychology establishments to apologise for Freud’s remarks about females supposedly meaning “Yes” when they say “No” to sexual advancements from males, but that’s yet another story … then again, if freedom of religion goes too far then perhaps the the justice system will return to allowing husbands the right to rape their wives? You know, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22), and that jazz. Personally, I wish there was more awareness of the terms “wife” and “mother” being used symbolically in scripture to represent “church”. Isaac Newton knew this well.)

The issue of sexual orientation and discrimination is an easy one to get lost on when objecting to the Religious Discrimination bill; however, the fact is, the bill goes much deeper than sexuality. Nuances of giving religious bigots of any faith having the right to to express discriminatory statements of beliefs towards others has far reaching ramifications. For example, I know of a Christian group that claims that in order to enter heaven followers must hate their parents. The leader quotes Luke 14:26:

“If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”

To most of the Christian world, the above quote is figurative speech and/or an example of a family system used to symbolise ancient religious hierarchies. To a fundamentalist who interprets the Bible literally, Luke’s words are justification for tearing families apart. I do not wish to give notoriety to a particular religious leader who enforces this doctrine, so I will not mention them by name. Suffice to say, if legislation is passed that overrides other laws, then such people can and will use ancient texts to support their beliefs and discrimination practices. Being discriminated against for being a parent may sound absurd, but this and even stranger beliefs could be upheld if Morrison’s shortsighted bill goes ahead.

Under current laws, specifically in Victoria, a religious person using coercive practices to indoctrinate others can be charged with radical extremism and hate crimes. I feel some sense of reassurance in knowing the current premier, Dan Andrews, opposes the bill and has stated that if it is passed he will not acknowledge it’s authority within Victoria. As a further act of commitment to anti-discrimination, the Andrews government has very recently amended the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) bill, to ensure religious organisations and schools will no longer be able to sack or refuse to hire people based on protected attributes such as sexuality, gender identity or martial status.

If the federal Religious Discrimination bill is approved acts of prejudice and terrorism will be given the green light. I cannot stress enough that the bill states it provides:

certain statements of belief do not constitute discrimination for the purposes of certain specified Commonwealth, state or territory anti-discrimination laws”. 


In other words, if a religious leader wants to claim that it is their belief that all parents are evil, then they can do so as easily as a religious leader can claim homosexuality is a sin. Not all religious beliefs are created equal.

A few days ago, I posted a copy of my Open Letter on my personal Facebook page. In response, an old friend who is a devout Christian sent a personal message in which they said they said they did not agree with everything I said but they had experiences with “crazy Christians”. The correspondence that continued was a wonderful exchange in which it became evident, despite our differing views, we were connected by the common agreement that love for others is what matters above all else. Their words were not empty. “I’ll do what I can to help,” they said.

The term “crazy” is rude and improper. Nonetheless, it aptly captures the problem with Morrison’s Religious Discrimination bill. While most Christians, Atheists, Islamics, Buddhist, Hindu’s, and others would not dream of hurting others through discriminatory and prejudicial practices or beliefs, the fact remains that there are some “crazy” individuals out there who would. Just as there are “crazy Christians” there are “crazy Islamics”, “crazy Buddhists”, “crazy Hindus”, and other “crazy” religious people who take things to a level of radical extremism, sometimes even going so far as to engage in hate crimes. The right to religious freedom should not override other human rights.

Religious freedom cannot be duly considered without also giving due consideration to religious belief. Alternatively, in consideration that love, moreover, non-discriminatory love, is a prime principle of most major religions no new law to protect the freedom of religion is needed. And finally, as a secular society, non-discrimination (aka love) should be the backbone of our laws.

Dear Australians, We Need Coercive Control Laws Not a Religious Discrimination Bill

I’m not usually one to take a strong interest in politics, unless of course an issue props up that effects me directly. It is an egocentric mindset that many people can relate to. It is also a dangerous complacency because without active interest in what our politicians are doing, dubious bills can slip pass unnoticed, for example, the Australian Federal Liberal party’s Religion Discrimination Bill 2021.

Last year when researching a group of radical extremists, I became aware of the nuances of Australian’s so-called Freedom of Religion Act. Long story short, despite Australia supposedly upholding all human rights, for some reason, Freedom of Religion has the capacity to overwrite other human rights. In others words, if you want to abuse someone, all you need to do is claim you are acting in accordance with your religious beliefs.

Want to reduce others to servitude and keep them in line with cruel and demeaning punishments? No worries, mate, go ahead if that’s what your God says is the only way to get into heaven. Want to spy on someone and arbitrarily interfere with their privacy and communication with others? That’s also fine, mate, surely nothing can wrong if a religious leader has absolute control over who their followers talk to and interact with. No possible manipulation there at all. Want to arbitrarily deprive someone their of property? If that’s your religion, then go right ahead. For instance, taking quality shoes off a teenager with foot problems and giving them to an adult with no foot problems is a very reasonable religious practice. I’m sure the kid will be happy with those shoes that are two sizes too small which they found in a dumpster. As for those corns and fungal infections they develop due to inadequate footwear, well, that will just help them develop character. I bet God wanted that teenager to suffer anyway, that’s why the leader was guided in a dream to take the shoes off them in the first place. Want to promote suicidal ideation and self harm practices? Ordinary that’s not allowed, but if it’s part of your faith then Australia will provide you with a legal loophole to get away with it. Thus, Australia is becoming a desirable location for spiritual gurus who want form a religion.

I wish I could say the above paragraph was a fabrication of worst case scenarios, but it’s not. This has all happened in Australia. And this is still happening in Australia right now. Why? Because Australian authorities do not have the power to intervene. Freedom of Religion legislation as it currently stands can and does override other criminal offences. The so-called new and improved version of policies that Scott Morrison’s government is trying to get approved will only make matters worse. A snapshot of harmful religious practices currently conducted within Australia can be found on the Cult Information and Family Support website.

Abusive behaviours that are justified, executed, and legalised as religious freedom have a long history dating back thousands and thousands of years. Hitler was just following his religious beliefs too. Many who lived through WW2 swore it should never happen again. The United Nation’s defining of basic human rights was a collaborative effort from around the globe aimed at preventing atrocities occurring by religious fundamentalists with superiority complexes. Perhaps the current Australia government needs a history lesson?

While I have become involved in the issue through dealing with a radical extremist group (who claim to be a minority Christian religion), many others have criticised the Morrison government’s proposal for other reasons. Condemners include legal experts, unions, and civil organisations like LGBTIQA+ communities and women’s rights movement.

A few weeks ago, journalist Dalley-Fisher made the following remarks in The Canberra Times in relation to how the bill could harm sexual discrimination:

“ … it’s great to hear that the federal government is interested in legislating to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief. [..] It’s therefore extremely frustrating to discover that the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 not only fails to properly implement the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, but it also manages to exacerbate the sort of cultural barriers that the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s reports seek to overcome.

[..] Rather than limiting the right to manifest beliefs to protect the rights of others, the Bill actually limits the human right of others to freedom from discrimination, in order to protect the right to manifest beliefs.”

These sentiments could be aptly applied to other scenarios. The bill places religion and religious practices as more being important than common decency and other forms of discrimination. I’m all for individuals having the right to believe and practice whatever religion they want, but I’m not okay with religious rationales being accepted as a means of excusing abusive practices. The bill itself is an act of coercive control aimed at encouraging Australians to be tolerant of religious abuse.

If the Religious Discrimination bill goes ahead, then, as per the summary of the legislation, discrimination will be prohibited “on the basis of a person’s religious belief or activity in a range of areas of public life, including in relation to employment, education, access to premises and the provision of goods, services and accommodation”. The aim is not to protect individuals who are non-religious and/or who have beliefs that differ to mainstream faiths. The aim is to protect mainstream religions by establishing “general and specific exceptions from the prohibition of religious discrimination” to a point in which “certain statements of belief [will] not constitute discrimination for the purposes of certain specified Commonwealth, state or territory anti-discrimination laws”. Did everybody get that? Religious conglomerates can avoid being charged with anti-discrimination under “Commonwealth, state or territory anti-discrimination laws” for exercising their religious beliefs “in relation to employment, education, access to premises and the provision of goods, services and accommodation”. Organised religions will have more rights than the average individual.

Why in hell (pun intended) would politicians want to create a bill that removes protections of human rights from certain individuals in order to allow other individuals the right to manifest beliefs that are sexist, racist, and otherwise abusive? The motive is clear. The only reason possible, is to increase the power of religious groups. What religious group may the Scott Morrison government have in mind? The obvious answer = Pentecostal Christianity. Of particular interest is Morrison’s connection to Hillsong, a Pentecostal denomination of Christianity that was introduced to Australia via American influences in the 1980s.

If Morrison’s aim is to increase privileges of Christianity – in particular Pentecostal versions – then he is being short sighted of the broader implications regarding the bill.

Morrison’s support of religious ideology includes being a close friend of one of Hillsong’s leading pastors, Brian Houston. How close? Let’s just say he’s known him a very long time and the bonds are sufficient for him to put Houston’s name down as a potential guest for an event at the White House. (By the way, Houston is currently facing criminal charges relating to the cover up of child sex abuse.)

Morrison’s alliance with Hillsong is long and controversial. Their adrenaline pumping gatherings were in the news recently for not following the Covid-19 mandate of no dancing at festivals – apparently there was some confusion over the NSW health order in which Hillsong thought being a religious gathering meant they had an exception to the rule that everyone else had to follow. Going back to March 2020, when Covid was beginning to impact the county, many speculated Morrison delayed the introduction of density limits till after a Hillsong concert. Was he looking after his mates’ best interests or the country’s? Either way, we know Morrison loves attending these kinds of worshipping sessions.

Scott Morrison opening Hillsong conference 2019. Source: Wikipedia

Pentecostal religion is relatively new but still has some of the good old medieval beliefs surrounding heaven and hell, Jesus and Satan, and predictions of the end times. Each particular Pentecostal Church and believer may have differing opinions, as is the norm across many versions of Christianity. Of concern are the devout who most vehemently believe you have to follow their version of beliefs in order to secure bliss in the afterlife. Subsequently, many Australians, like me, may be judged as being doomed for hell. That’s fine. What is not fine is putting fundamentalists in a position where others can be discriminated against and then protecting the acts of discrimination with federal laws that supersede state and commonwealth laws.

Belief in demonology and other unseen spirits is also pretty big in some Christian circles. Again, that’s fine. I’m happy to keep an open mind to the existence of fairies and gnomes too (and Allah, Buddha, and any other deity). But why should one ideology have the opportunity to discriminate over another? I don’t know exactly where Morrison stands on these issue, so I can only speculate. Besides, the issue isn’t directly what he believes anyway, the issue is that he is making legislations that empowers faith above rational reasoning. This is especially worrisome in relation to mental health issues when theories of possession are applied to individuals who are struggling with addiction and well-being concerns. Its dark age superstitions of psychology at its best when demons are used to explain conditions like anxiety, depression, and psychosis, while contemporary knowledge of the nervous system and the effects of trauma are ignored.

While most Christians are caring, kind hearted people, who do their best to look out for the needs of others, by creating legislation that it gives blanket approval to religious groups to express their faith, the door is opened for religious groups to use this loophole in such a manner that other human rights are neglected. Not only will it put more power into the hands of mainstream religions, it will also allow destructive cults and radical extremists the capacity to discriminate against others. The marginalised will be atheists, non-religious people, and individuals who do not otherwise have the backing of a religious ideology to justify “certain statements of belief”. Rather than promoting equality, a major criticism of the bill is that gives privileges to certain groups who want to exercise prejudices in the name of religion. The potential repercussions are highly alarming to say the least, especially given that freedom of religion in Australia already favours Christianity over other faiths.

Focus on spiritual principles in relation to work and employment situations is also damning when individuals are expected to work for God, not money. Whistleblower, Nicole Herman, says the Hillsong church is a cult that expects followers to work for free, despite huge annual earnings. This situation is not unique to Hillsong. I have had direct interactions about this subtle form of enslavement with the Australian Federal Police, Fair Work Ombudsmen, and Workplace Health and Safety Commission. If religious groups can conn their followers into forgoing their rights to be given fair pay in exchange for their time, services, and skills then Australian agencies are not in a strong position to intervene. I have personally had this conversation with all three of the aforementioned government agencies in relation to a religious group (not Hillsong) that coerces members into working for the leader for free. Despite it being clear there is an employment relationship and group members are performing work outside of volunteer guidelines, religious leaders can avoid persecution due to, you guessed it, “freedom of religion”.

Moving on, Hillsong has received 42 million tax-free dollars of federal money under questionable circumstances. The church the Morrison’s personally attend, Horizon, received 110K for security upgrades, which some question the necessary of. And a Hillsong teaching academy is reported to have received 5 million in support packages. Is this the type of education Morrison believes constitutes more learning and less activism?

From slave labour to tax cuts and government handouts, Hillsong is doing so well it was able to recently purchase Melbourne’s Festival Hall for 23 million dollars. I’m not alone in the opinion that the situation highlights financial advantages given to religious organisations that are unfair and need to be addressed by making them pay taxes like everyone else.

But wait, while on the topic of a performing arts theatre venue, let’s not forget that in 2019 Morrison slashed Arts funding and merged the Department of Communications and Arts portfolio into the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Is it just me or does Morrison care more about providing support to religions than encouraging a diverse range of freedom of thought, conscience, and belief through artistic expressions? Further, while Hillsong currently say they will maintain the Melbourne Festival Hall as a host venue for performing artists (except on Sundays), who’s to say they won’t censor performances by only permitting artists who align with Pentecostal beliefs to use the facility?

Coercive control can be tricky to identify because you can’t always look at just one instance and call it out. It’s the sum of its parts, not the individual parts them self. Having said that, the Religious Discrimination bill 2021 is a very big part of a broader picture.

Coercive control involves behaviour such as intimidation, threats, humiliation tactics, and other forms mental or emotional abuse. For instance, telling someone they’ll go to hell for being gay, implying God wants all women to be subservient to men, claiming anxiety is caused by the devil tempting their soul, belittling traumatic events as being the result of karma, and so forth.

The harmful toll on mental and physical health caused by coercive control is increasingly becoming known and documented. Likewise, it is well recognised by mental health experts that religion is the perfect breeding ground for manipulative behaviours to flourish, hence terms like spiritual bypassing and religious abuse are becoming more common. Personally, I’d place a lot more faith in a government that wanted to protect its citizens from religious abuse than one that endorses coercive control by empowering religious groups with the ability to forgo human rights.

As reported in several articles (like The Conversation), Morrison believes he was chosen by God to be Prime Minister. I wonder if Morrison thinks he was chosen by God to become Prime Minister so as he could evangelise? Perhaps he views the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 as his holy work?

Am I being too harsh? Too cynical? Perhaps Morrison is really a level headed human who is capable of putting his personal faith in perspective and doesn’t allow it to bias his professional decision making processes? If so, why is the number of Pentecostal Christians in Morrison’s cabinet so high? Pentecostal Christianity represents 1.1% of the population but at least 10% of Morrison’s cabinet are Pentecostal and at least 50% are affiliated with a Christian doctrine. How can a cabinet dominated by one particular religious ideology create fair laws which cater to the diverse climate of Australian culture? Likewise, how can preferential funding practices be scrutinised?

It is beyond disappointing that institutions could be given the option of terminating employment due to clashes of belief towards things like gender equality and sexual orientation (even the Pope has let go of archaic ideas of homosexuality being caused by demonic possession). Such measures means that opportunities for positive connections between faiths, like I experienced when working at an Islamic school, could be lost.

From a big picture perspective, giving more power to religious groups under the guise of protecting the integrity of their faith, may be fine if that religion supports other human rights. However, it also paves the way for smaller religious communities to exercise prejudicial behaviours that diminish human rights. Australia is not immune to radical extremism, and oddly, our anti-terrorist and violent extremism laws can be overrided by freedom of religion rights. (Again, I can confirm this due to direct interactions about the matter.)

In sum, the Morrison government is not promoting policies aimed at cultivating peace and harmony within a multicultural and multi-faith country. His devotion to his faith is a conflict of interest that places the right to freedom of religion above other human rights. While many points can only be speculated, the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 indicates the Australian Federal Liberal party has a lack of integrity.

I propose a formal investigation is conducted into the the use of federal funds to support Hillsong and Morrison’s conflict of interest in making policy regarding religious beliefs and conduct.

Australians, we need to curb discriminatory, abusive, and coercive practices in all sectors so as everyone genuinely gets a fair go.

In February 2022, Australian parliament intends to review the Religious Discrimination Bill 2022. If you do not want to see this bill passed, please share this open letter to others and let the politicians know we will not tolerate coercion and the diminishing of humans rights.

Christian Principles, What are They?: Supplemental to Dear Australians, We Need Coercive Control Laws Not. Religious Discrimination Bill

Behind the Hijab: Reflections on Working at an Islamic School From a Teacher Raised as a Catholic

Several years ago, I had the good fortune of being employed as an art teacher at an Islamic school. It wasn’t an experience I actively tried to have, rather I took the opportunity out of necessity. I was unemployed and needed a means of paying the bills which translated into accepting any job interview my employment agency offered. It turned out to be one of the most valuable and enriching life experiences I’ve ever had.

I have not obtained consent from individuals to share specific stories, so in order to maintain confidentially I shall focus on my journey in general terms. The aim of doing so is to break down cultural barriers in the hope that my experience and learnings are of benefit to others.

The interview occurred during a Melbourne heatwave. As per the agency’s instructions, I dressed in clothes that covered me head to toe, including a scarf wrapped around my head, hijab style – I relied upon YouTube tutorials to do this. Naively, apart from my attire, I approached the interview like all others and promptly offered my hand to give a welcome shake to the gentleman who ushered me into interview room. My first lesson: in Islamic communities women don’t shake men’s hands. To ease the tension of my faux pas a female interviewer stepped forward to grasp my hand that was dangling awkwardly in mid air. Somehow, I still got offered the six month position, and in time, realised that Muslim women’s empathy and capacity to accomodate the emotional needs of others is very high.

My whole experience prompted me to look beyond the mindset I was raised with so as I could see the world through a broader scope, a scope that went beyond surface level tolerance of other religions. I was raised a Catholic and with this I had a very western view of life, values, expectations, and assumptions. In other words, I had prejudices. If I were to be completely honest, up until that point, I viewed Muslims as being “others”, not of “my kind”, and dare I say it, “inferiors”. I am now eternally grateful for being humbled by being forced to confront my erroneous attitudes.

I was very guarded when I first began my contract. I was going there to do a job and get paid. End of story. But when does that ever really happen, especially in a school setting? Teaching involves interactions, and interactions lead to bonds being formed and relations developing despite anyone’s best intentions of remaining autonomous.

The first couple of weeks were especially challenging. Not only was there a heatwave, the school was an hour and a half away from home and my car’s air conditioning was broken and I didn’t have the funds to get it fixed. I dressed skimpily to accomodate for the weather then put on coverings in a back street before entering the school grounds. On a personal level, I felt enormous pangs of guilt about abandoning my thirteen year old son at 6:30am every morning. He had just began his secondary education at new school and had to get himself up and to the bus stop without my support. To top it all off, I was going through health challenges and was mourning of the loss of a romantic relationship. I cried to and from work many days. Some days my eyes were still red as I passed through the electronic gates at the front of the school. It took all the strength I could muster to pull myself together and put on my professional teaching persona. I had no allies in this place, no friend to whinge to or unload my burdens onto like at previous employments. The first few weeks were tough, really tough, but that changed as the veil of otherness dissipated and familiarity bred connection.

Each day I turned up to work felt like I was entering into a different world. It was weird, yet there was also something beautiful brewing. Despite my best efforts to look the part, the students all instantly recognised I was not one of “them”. Was it the way I spoke? The style of my clothing? Or was it the way I wore my hijab? After I’d built up rapport with some of the students they informed that it was a combination of all of these and that they could sense my “otherness” immediately. They also kindly showed me how to wear a hijab properly (YouTube had failed me).

I support most feminist ideals, always have and always will. To be placed in a scenario that had an outward appearance of females being treated as inferiors and males as superiors was a thing for me. But my pre-existing stereotypes of Islamic gender roles did not fit what I was experiencing. In the junior high school levels I only taught girls (boys were at another campus). These students displayed a broad range of attitudes typical to any school. Some students were exceptionally concerned about their grades, while others just wanted to use class time to chat with their friends. Initially, I thought that because all the students had to wear hijabs I would not encounter distractions pertaining to appearance like playing with hair, wearing make up, and excessive jewellery, but no, all these issues popped up with exception of playing with hairstyles which was replaced with hijab fashioning.

The daily life experiences of the students did not match my definition of “normal”. However, I had to face the fact that it was my definition of “normal” that was wrong, not the Islamic lifestyle. For instance, how are compulsory hijabs any different to compulsory tie wearing in other schools? (I once worked in a school that required preps to wear ties.) Both are symbols of cultural values. To give another example, I felt like an outsider when I did not know how to respond to certain phrases mentioned at the opening of staff meetings, however, when I thought about it, this was no different to my non-Catholic peers in Catholic schools not knowing how to respond to customs they had not been initiated into.

In the specialty subjects of senior high school, years eleven and twelve, classes were mixed gendered and the expectation was that males and females would sit in different parts of the room. However, I did not know this when I first started. I’d been teaching at the school for at least six weeks when I learned fo this rule. When I realised I hadn’t been enforcing expectations, I apologised to my class for the oversight but the students just kind of smirked and told me genders were allowed to interact in Art classes because of the need to move around and use resources – teenagers of all cultures know how to work around school rules they don’t agree with.

On the teaching front, I thought at first that I could simply repeat lessons I’d given at previous schools, with the exception of portraiture and figure drawing. There were an abundance of other lessons like pattern making and landscapes painting that could be done. Sometimes these activities were successful, sometimes not. I had to stop making assumptions of prior learning experiences and be open trying new approaches that better suited the students before me. I realised that in the past I’d sometimes been robotic with my teaching, like I was in autopilot, but now I had to be fully present.

As time passed, more and more open conversations between myself and the students took place within the boundaries of professional interactions. Some students were devout to Islamic traditions, others not so. There is no one size fits all for Muslims just like there is no one unified Christianity.

I wish I could share some of the specific bonding points and examples of how the veils of otherness fell away, but like I said, due to confidentiality reasons, I cannot. Suffice to say, I was moved by the depth of acceptance that I was embraced with by students and staff.

In regards to the other teachers, in particular my female peers (Muslims), they were as dedicated and professional as other places I’ve worked. Many had Master degrees in addition to their teaching qualifications. Not only were they intellectual, they had a deep appreciation of the Arts. They were strong, kind hearted, and resourceful. On multiple occasions I witnessed female staff putting their back into moving furniture and doing physically laborious tasks. Why was I surprised to see this? Where had I gotten the impression that Islamic woman were meek, mild, and fully dependent upon men in accordance to (western) stereotype roles?

While my initial intention of working at the school was to keep to myself as much as possible, this simply did not happen and, after the first few trying weeks, I found myself looking forward going to the staff room to interact with my fellow teachers for morning tea break even though I could just as easily boil a kettle in my office. The conversations were typical of any work place. What did you do on the weekend? How’s the renovations going? Where are planning your next holiday? And similar topics. And of course work stuff, like did so and so do their homework?

I didn’t realise I was making genuine connections with my colleagues until second term. Some staff members started coming across to the art room (which was an effort due to it being located on the outskirts of the other school buildings) to catch up with me and have idle chatter because they’d missed me in the main staff room. Sometimes they shared stories of personal dilemmas, parenting issues, teaching moments, or the excitement of an up coming event they were looking forward to. In other words “normal” stuff.

Not everything was smooth sailing. I made bloopers, used the wrong phasing in some of lessons, and raffled a few feathers here and there with my unorthodoxy. However, when the principal commended me on the quality of my student’s art works and how refreshing it was to see new types of Art being made, I had no reason to doubt her sincerity. I like to think it was a two way street of learning, a building of an alliance through mutual tolerance and respect.

As I developed more comfortable feelings of being within an Islamic community, I felt inclined to do some shopping at the nearby centre as opposed to going home and shopping in my own familiar neighbourhood. On occasion, I did so still wearing a hijab and without. When I went to the shops without, I had a distinct feeling of being “other” whereas without it, I felt like one of “them”. I even perused the scarf stalls and purchased a couple of that had designs I felt reflected “me”. Doing so encouraged me to reflect upon the “uniforms” I self imposed on myself in other situations. On a philosophical level, I realised that “me” was deeper than my outward appearance and how others may judge what I was wearing.

As the end of my contract neared, it was with joy that I received the news that the school wanted to extend it. I communicated with the principal that I’d like to continue, however, the long drive was tiresome and I felt as though I was neglecting my son. She understood. She said she’d also once worked at a school that she had to drive an hour and half to attend, so in order to keep me she offered to reduce my allotment and rearrange the timetable so as I only needed to go in four days a week. Just days shy of signing the new contract, I was offered a job forty-five minutes from home. It was a tough decision but I decided it was in my personal interest to take the alternative job. My new position was at all boys Catholic school which I’ve written about elsewhere.

As I look back upon my experience of working at an Islamic school, the highs greatly out way the lows. I went there out of necessity and desperation for work, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding opportunities I’ve ever had. I was an outsider to the culture but I was embraced, welcomed, and made to feel valued, despite my stuff ups. I’m quite certain my positive view of the experience was not a one way street. There were tears in the eyes of at least one student when I broke the news that I was leaving. They had changed me, and I them. Prejudices and misunderstandings were relinquished, perhaps in me more so than anyone else.

Prior to teaching in an Islamic school I had never considered myself to be discriminatory, but I’d also never been confronted with the need to really understand Islam. I had to be honest with myself, I had harboured silent prejudices against the Muslim faith that I may have never faced if I had not forced to do so.

When I told some people of my experiences of wearing a hijab, they questioned why I had to do so if my personal beliefs did not align with the custom. I understand where they were coming from, but personally, I’m glad I was able to put my values aside and respect the wishes of my employer. If I had not done so, I would not have been able to develop a deeper appreciation of life from another’s perspective.

Nowadays, if I pass an Islamic woman wearing a hijab on the streets, I tried to give them knowing smile. I do not know exactly what it is like to be “them” but I’ve had an experience of their culture that is sincere and valued to a point in which my previous “otherness” has been replaced with a sense of “us”. Do Islamic communities have issues of gender equality that need to be addressed? Yes, I do believe they do. But so to does western culture. At the end of the day, whatever culture or religion a person born into, we are all human and our shared humanity far outwards the differences.

One of the reasons I’ve have decided to share my experiences of working in an Islamic school now is because I am highly concerned about the Australian Federal government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill 2021. Presumably, the reason I was employed by the Islamic school was because I was the most qualified person interviewed (I found out later that an Islamic Art teacher had also been interviewed). Under Morrison’s bill, I may have missed out on the opportunity and the position given to a Muslim purely on the grounds of religious background alone, in other words, I would have been discriminated against for my religious background. The legal enabling of segregation practices based on religion is harmful on multiple levels.

My employment at a Muslim school was not a threat to their traditions or values. To think laws need to be made to prevent cross cultural interchanges so as religions can maintain “purity” is ridiculous.

Islam is not my religion, and I’m not about to convert. However, over the years, I have used my experience of working at an Islamic school in other teaching roles to inform my practice. For example, when possible, I interject traditional western presentations of Art history lessons with Islamic insights in a manner that I would not have done so prior to my position at a Muslim school. Surely, the dismantling of stereotypes and the fostering of alliances between cultures and different faiths is a good thing?

I rarely take selfies, however, due the commodity of having to wear a hijab some of my friends asked what I looked like, so I took a snapshot and posted it on social media. To my surprise, I was overwhelmed with responses telling me I looked beautiful. It felt weird. Why was I beautiful? Was it the pattern on my scarf? How could I be beautiful if I was covered? Had I covered my ugly parts? Or were they looking beyond my outer appearance? To this day, I still do know exactly. However, in accordance with my personal definition of beauty as a threefold phenomenon, I would describe my experience of teaching at an Islamic school as “Hera” beautiful! It was not dependent upon outward aesthetics like Aphrodite, nor did it fill me with beautiful emotions due to being triumphant over a challenge in an Athena style of beauty. Hera beauty is the beauty of transformation, an intangible experience not visible to the physical eye; the inner transformations I experienced by working at an Islamic school were definitely beautiful.

Aeschylus’ Death, a Genuine Tragedy or Murder Cover Up?

Legend tells us that Aeschylus died from fatal wounds caused by a tortoise falling on his head. Apparently, this freak accident was due to the victim’s bald noggin being mistaken as a rock by a hungry eagle who dropped the tortoise in order to crack open the shell and devour the soft inner flesh. Thus, two tragedies in one – Aeschylus died and an eagle was deprived of its dinner.

The death of Aeschylus, Maso Finiguerra (c.1400s). Source: Ancient Origins

While it is common practice for eagles to drop tortoises to smash their shells, Aeschylus, the great Ancient Greek playwright, born in 525/524 BCE, is potentially the only unfortunate soul in the history of humankind to have met his end due to being confused with a lump of hard stone. Rocks are still, human heads move. Further, as implied by the saying “to have eyes like an eagle”, eagles have exceptionally good eyesight. How then could an eagle make such a error? Or was Aeschylus an exceptionally still man?

Comparison of bald head (Source: Wikipedia Commons) and round rock (Source: Brooklyn Museum).

The poet Aeschylus’ departure was not voluntary, but the novelty of the occurrence makes it worth mention. He was in Sicily. Leaving the walls of the town where he was staying, he sat down in a sunny spot. An eagle carrying a tortoise was above him. Deceived by the gleam of his hairless skull, it dashed the tortoise against it, as though it were a stone, in order to feed on the flesh of the broken animal. By that blow the origin and beginning of more perfect tragedy was extinguished.

VALERIUS MAXIMUS, c.1-100CE, Memorable Doings and Sayings

Was Aeschylus sitting as still as a rock? Or did this particular eagle have poor eyesight? It’s not impossible for a person to die from an airborne reptile, but still, I can’t help but speculate if this fateful ending was really the imaginative concoction of a fellow dramatist rather than a freak of nature. Or was it a cover up for something more sinister … I’ll go over the drama aspect first.

Drama. The Ancient Greeks were masters of captivating audiences with their enthralling storylines full of tragedy, double meanings, and allegorical puns. Aeschylus was particularly good at writing plays, as evidenced by his numerous winning of awards (equivalent to today’s Hollywood’s Golden Globe awards). He set the bar so high he’s been dubbed the father of tragedy. In addition to mastering the art of story telling, he innovated stage productions by introducing multiple characters who had dialogues with each other. The standard for theatre plays prior to Aeschylus was to have a single actor presenting a monologue with an accompanying chorus. Aeschylus’ innovation of drama conventions with multiple characters interacting with each other in dialogues is still followed by playwrights today.

The Ancient Greeks were great thinkers and as a society who loved philosophy, their dramas were filled with irony and puns, subtle gestures, multiple storylines, symbolism, ethical references, and moral lessons. Thus it seems more than fitting for Aeschylus’ death to have same elements. Additionally, the Greeks (like many ancients) were staunch believers in prophecy and destiny … and apparently, according Pliny, Aeschylus spent a lot of time outdoors because he’d been told by a fortune teller that he was going to die by a falling object indoors … tragically, this prophecy was half right and/or the laws of destiny found a way to demonstrate their authority despite Aeschylus best efforts to avoid the Gods’ will.

The layers of intrigue associated with Aeschylus’ death are just superb! However, simply recognising similar elements between Greek drama and the circumstances surrounding Aeschylus’ death are not sufficient to suspect the details were purely the fabrication of an astute creative mind. A motive is needed if one really wants to claim a conspiracy was at hand.

Why would anyone want to kill a playwright then lie about how it happened? A potential explanation is zealous devotion to religious protocols. The ancient religion to be put on the stand for this cold case is the Eleusinian Mysteries. On a surface level, this cult worshipped the Goddess Demeter who was associated with the growing of crops, as told in the Homeric poem about Hades’ abduction of Kore (also known as Persephone).

The Eleusinian Mysteries were the dominate cult of the Classical Era. At least once in a lifetime anyone who could speak Greek, whether they be male, female, free, slave, child, or other, were expected to partake in annual festivals that included a walk from Athens to the cult centre in Eleusis; a journey that took approximately nine days. Many who could not speak Greek were also interested in the festival, however, access to the mysteries were denied to all those who did not meet the language requirement. (Several centuries later permission was extended to all Roman citizens.)

The origin of the Eleusinian Mysteries extends back to the grass roots of Greek culture, to what is termed the Greek Dark Ages (c.1100-750BCE). There are few written records of this era, however, there is reason to suspect it had some egalitarian aspects, as evidenced in records of women owning property. Traditionally, Homeric poems were passed down orally, till about c.800BCE when they were penned in Greek (the Greek alphabet developed via influence from the Phoenician alphabet – this point is mentioned to highlight the fact that Greek culture did not evolve in a vacuum).

The Eleusinian temple was built on a shoreline that had an underground cave (this where Hades took Kore). The earliest known building on the ground above the cave was a Mycenaean Megaron, which consisted of a central hall with small spaces attached to the edges (as per the myth it was built to honour Demeter). The style was typical to the region from about 1380BCE to 1190BCE. Over the years, the temple was repaired, replaced, and expanded according to maintenance needs and population increases. In Aeschylus’ lifetime it was a geometric building with a large rectangular hall, most probably constructed with what would later become known as Classical Greek Columns.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were considered to be of up most importance, so much so, that cease fires and temporary peace treaties between conflicting groups were honoured in weeks leading up to the festival to allow pilgrims to travel and partake in the rites without delays or safety fears. To emphasis how important the Eleusinian Mysteries were to the Greeks, I’ll say that again, wars stopped every year to allow the great festival to go ahead without interruption.

Very few precise details are known about the beliefs and customs of the Eleusinian Mysteries. What is known is that it had a hierarchical structure. The ceremonies of entrance level initiations could be witnessed by crowds, however, higher level initiations were done in private, possibly within the caves below the temple.

Secrecy over the rites, ceremonies, and rank of individuals was strictly guarded. Males and females were separated during certain parts of the rites, thus each gender had equivalent leadership in so far as priestesses lead women and priests lead men. The person/s in highest position/s were called the hierophant. The process of obtaining this post is not known. The level of secrecy was so high, it is believed the hierophant had their face covered during rites so as no one knew their identity. Like I said, secrets were strictly guarded. Under Greek law, anyone who disclosed details of the Mysteries to an uninitiated person could be charged as having committed a crime against the state. If found guilty, punishment was death. Which brings me back to Aeschylus.

Aeschylus was accused of revealing Eleusinian Mystery secrets in his plays. Specifically, there are reports of calamity during a production of Prometheus Bound. Members of the crowd supposedly attempted to kill Aeschylus on the spot because the drama contained direct references to sacred knowledge. Potentially, this didn’t eventuate because doing so would make it clear what those secrets were and who had been initiated to a rank of knowing such information. When formally questioned, Aeschylus escaped persecution by claiming he did not know what the mysteries were, therefore any reference to them in his play were done so with ignorance. In order for this defence to be validated members of the law establishment must have had access to the secret records of who was initiated and to what level. Moreover, the accusers and legal teams knew the significance of what may or may not have been revealed in the play.

The situation of Aeschylus’ charges and subsequent acquittal implies the law officials did know the Eleusinian Mysteries and they were privy to knowing the secret doctrines. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day speculating the connections between religion, wealthy families, and the leadership of Ancient Greece. On the outside, their culture and governance had a veneer of democratic rulership, however, beneath this was a web of secret connections that can be affiliated with the Eleusinian Mysteries.

To add insult to injury, not only was Aeschylus accused of revealing religious secrets, he also made cynical references to aristocratic rulership in his play Eumenides that were not well received by all viewers.

Given the common aristocratic desire to maintain power through the status quo, I can’t help but wonder if Aeschylus was quietly disposed of then an elaborate cover up story told? In my imagination, I wonder if “Death by tortoise” was a code name of a mission given to Ancient Greek special agents … a secret operation that needed to be carried out in order to silence a social media influencer … then again, maybe that is just my imagination going wild.

As a sidenote, it is interesting to ponder the premise of absolute secrecy associated with cultic practices. This scenario was by no means unique to Ancient Greece and the Eleusisian Mysteries. Judaism, Orphism, Mithraism, and several other ancient religions, including Early Christianity, all have subtle indications that their faith was cloaked in sacred shrouds of mystery. (E.g., one of the reasons the Pharisees’ wanted Jesus killed was because he dared to educate the masses about hidden codes within the scriptures; Luke 24:27). The question is, how many of these cults perceived the death penalty as being justified if anyone went against group rules by choosing to act openly, with transparent expressions of religious doctrines? Ancient worlds held very different attitudes towards knowledge and education compared to that of today. Time and time again it can be observed that aristocratic structures placed limits on access to education so as to preserve and maintain upper and lower levels of citizens. Keeping “lower classes”, like slaves, women, and manual labourers ignorant of information was a means of elevating “upper classes”, like men, senators, kings, queens, and priests to a divine sphere affiliated with the Gods.

As many have said, knowledge is power. And sometimes those in power will kill in order to maintain their position and keep others ignorant. The use of so-called divine reasoning based upon the authority of the Heavens as justification was more readily accepted in the past than contemporary times.

Through chance or design, in addition to being highly entertaining, Aeschylus dramas presented ideas that promoted thought and expansions of the mind. To share such information may have been deemed threatening to those in power who did not want their status overthrow. As stated earlier, it is possible Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise falling on his head, and personally, I am one to believe that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction … but all the same, an eagle mistaking a bald head for a stone sounds like a tall tale.

Aeschylus’ death is cold case that will probably never be reopened. The evidence for or against foul play has long expired … but still I wonder …

For more research and explorations of ancient religions, the history of education, and mental health topics visit the Renaissance Wellbeings blog page.


Eleusis, Telesterion (Building). (2022). Tufts.edu. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Eleusis,%20Telesterion&object=Building

Theodoros Karasavvas. (2018). Eagle Mistakes Bald Head for a Rock: The Bizarre Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Aeschylus. Ancient-Origins.net; Ancient Origins. https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/eagle-mistakes-bald-head-rock-bizarre-circumstances-surrounding-death-021785

Exploring Ancient Myths: Defining Beauty, According to Homer’s Helen of Troy

Many great minds have attempted to explain the complexities of subjective and objective beauty. Some have focused on principles of aesthetics while others on the emotional arousal a thing of beauty can facilitate. Personally, I find Homer’s explanation, as inferred through an allegorical interpretation of Helen of Troy, to be the most enlightening. 


Homer is the name accredited to the Ancient Greek epics of The Iliad and The Odyssey. These are generally believed to have been an aural tradition for hundreds or thousands of years before being written down in the eight century before the common era. There is some dispute over whether or not Homer was a single person or an alias for a group of writers. Regardless, his works are a cornerstone of Ancient Greek culture.

Thanks to Homer’s enduring popularity, the contemporary world is still familiar with the great Gods and Goddesses of the Olympus pathaleon, like Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Hercules, Hades, Hera, Athena, Nike, Aphrodite, and Apollo. Other writers who followed (like the Romans, Ovid and Virgil) modelled the Greek’s style and appropriated the legends, kind of like Hollywood remakes of classics with updated social values, modern costumes, altered storyline emphasis, name variations, and so forth. I would argue the original is still the best. 

In The Iliad, we’re told Helen (a daughter of Zeus and Leda) is the most beautiful woman in the world. Many men want her hand in marriage. She finishes up choosing the King of Sparta, Menelaus, and the unsuccessful suitors graciously vow to protect the union. The marriage lasts a few years until Helen leaves to marry a guy called Paris. I’ll go over the finer details of how that happened shortly. 

To misogynists, Helen represents the epitome of women’s evilness. She is placed as the central cause of blame for the ten year Trojan War between the Greeks and Spartans, which inadvertently means she’s also responsible for the many lives lost, including that of Achilles (Peleus’ and Thetis’ son). Helen’s femme fatale portrayal is archetypal of all beautiful women who potentially have the capacity to spell bound men and cause strife just because they can, because women are supposedly inherently evil and all that junk. 

To feminists, Helen represents a prime example of a subculture of men who view women as nothing more than a shallow cull of a body in which external attractiveness is valued above other qualities, like intellect and thinking. Further, women are objects that men feel entitled to own, thus justifying fighting over who owns what female body. 

Some view Helen of Troy as a product of pure fantasy, a myth that expresses historical and cultural attitudes and behaviours. Others believe the story is an exaggeration of real events. Potentially, those who take the literal path also reject evolution theory and believe the earth was once occupied by deities who interacted with humans on a regular basis. 

None of these interpretations sit well with my understanding of Ancient Greek symbolism. 

Ancient Greek Symbolism 

The Ancient Greeks were great thinkers. They were meticulous, thorough, and accurate in mathematics, art, and many other spheres of life. They had an impetus for ensuring things were done in accordance with truth, goodness, and justice. From the forms in their alphabet through to the meanings of words, the Greeks strove for clarity and did not leave much to chance. This organised approach can also be identified in how they incorporated symbolism into their prose.

Homer was a poet. The Iliad and The Odyssey are poems. Poetry was really important to the Ancient Greeks. Having said that, their poetry was not like contemporary verse that calls upon creative and imaginative expression for the sake of personal expression. Poetry was a highly intellectualised activity, moreover, to put words down on papyrus was an activity that warranted the utmost respect. If something was written down, it meant it was really important. 

Aristotle informs us that the art of poetry was considered a genre that spoke of the universal. Aristotle was wrong about a lot of things but I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt that his comments about his eras customs are accurate. So what does Aristotle mean by poetry speaks of the universal? He means it was a language used to describe the nature of life. A somewhat crude comparison would be to say Ancient Greek poems were the scientific literature of antiquity. Except in antiquity, science was religion or, more precisely, religious explanations of the nature of life were considered to be as valid as scientific explanations are to the contemporary era. Just like contemporary scientific journals have a style code that is clearly recognisable to those who have training, so too the ancient writers followed a style guide that not all were privy to knowing. The history of education directly corresponds to religions and cult activities. (I’ve written a full blog series about the history of education in relation to religious cults that begins here.) 

All of these considerations come to significance when viewed in relation to Empedocle’s explanation of Zeus, Hera, Persephone, and Hades being personifications of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth respectively. I have written about this before so I will just give a brief summary.

To those who had a high level of education in Ancient Greece, it was thoroughly understood that Zeus was not a real male who had umpteen affairs with numerous Goddesses. Rather, Zeus represented a very high (not necessarily the highest) pinnacle of the element of Fire. In turn, Fire symbolised the Spirit of intellect, the nous or cognitive functioning. Likewise, Hera, Queen of the Heavens, was a very high pinnacle of Air. In turn, Air symbolised the Soul of emotions, a broad array of feelings from anger to joy. Zeus’ “lovemaking” (or raping, as it sometimes described) was symbolic of the intellect interacting with various feelings. Humans have lots of feelings, so it makes sense that Zeus had lots of partners! (See The Big Bang Theory in Egyptian Mythology for about this type of symbolism.)

Persephone, as water, represents the essence of Ether, a life force that could be roughly correlated to the nervous system. And Hades, as Earth, represents the realm underneath the heavens. Humans have a physical body that can only live if “married” to a life force. Homer describes aspects this union in the myth about Hades taking Persephone to be his wife. Overall, human beings’ physical existence comprises Earth and Ether bodies that are permeated by Spirit (Zeus) and Soul (Hera) forces. 

Knowing this symbolic code is very useful in interpreting ancient myths from an allegorical perspective, however, it’s not a straightforward task because the layering of symbolism within theological frameworks can be quite complex. The fact that male characters can represent both the Spirit and Earth realms, and female characters can represent both Soul and Ether realms, means there is plenty of room for error. Careful examination of other cues needs to be conducted. With this in mind, I suspect Helen is representative of Ether. The reason being is that she has divine parents but she marries mortals. In other words, her role is symbolic of Earth matter “marrying” Ether, moreover, and aspect of Ether that has links to the Soul qualities of Beauty and Love (Aphrodite).

Other female characters of interest in the story of Helen of Troy, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, are more likely to be representatives of Soul qualities because their characteristics are more complex and have significant emotional components. 

The nature of the Soul is potentially the most contentious because, as Plato tells us, it was the most disputed topic amongst philosophers. Variations between versions of myths confirm different sects or cults viewed the nature of Soul life quite differently. On face value it can be difficult to see the squabbling that went on between various schools of thought, especially when contemporary researchers try to harmonise storylines (like psychoanalysis practices) instead of appreciating dissimilarities. It is within the subtle differences in the presentation of characters between authors that differing opinions can be seen. For example, some texts emphasise Aphrodite as a being the personification of platonic Love while others focused more on her as a Love connected to sexual desire. The situation is a bit like various sects of Christianity attributing variations of qualities to God, Jesus, Mary, and so forth. 

Getting back to Helen of Troy, how do these insights help to define beauty? 

Helen of Troy

The story of Helen begins with a wedding banquet on Mount Olympus. All the Gods and Goddesses were invited to celebrate the union of Peleus and Thetis, that is all the Gods and Goddesses except the Goddess Eris. Annoyed at being left out, Eris arrives and presents a golden apple saying it is for the most beautiful woman present. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite are key contenders. 

Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, and Eris as personifications of Soul, are symbolic of emotional concepts. A simplified explanation is as follows: Hera, as the supreme Goddess, represents all emotions, Athena represents emotional intelligence that has protective qualities, Aphrodite represents both noble love and sensual desire, and Eris represents an aspect of strife. (Empedocles tells us that Strife has many names so Eris may just be one of them.)

The three beautiful Goddesses ask Zeus to decide who is most sublime, but in his wisdom, Zeus refuses to respond. Was Zeus immune to Strife? Or was he using the opportunity to demonstrate a lesson in beauty? Anyway, Zeus selects Paris, a mortal, to decide who was entitled to the prize of the golden apple. Paris is not as wise as Zeus and he doesn’t know Eris has orchestrated this situation as a means of revenge. 

When the Goddesses came down from Mount Olympus and to present themselves to Paris, some versions say they undressed. Many artists over the years have enjoyed painting this scene. Paris was overwhelmed, they were all so beautiful!

The Judgement of Paris, Rubens, c.1636

Emotions can be very powerful and sometimes compete with one another for recognition. The three beautiful Goddesses were the same, each one tried to win Paris over. Hera offered the reward of rulership and power over many lands if he chose her. Athena offered wisdom and supreme battle skills, and Aphrodite offered the love of the most beautiful woman on earth. Three beauties and three prizes. Eris’ plan of creating discord by forcing a rigid choice be made by defining the ultimate beauty was about to come into effect.  

Paris, of course, chose Aphrodite, and true to her word, he was awarded the most beautiful woman alive even though she was married to another man. Paris got what he wanted but at what cost? Troy was destroyed and Paris died in battle. 

Helen of Troy, as a representative of ethereal beauty is a shallow character, her thoughts and feelings are never explored in depth by Homer because she was not a real woman. Her connection to Aphrodite suggests she is the manifestation of beauty that is physically appealing and delights the senses, but is absent of the complexity that Hera’s and Athena’s contributions to beauty can provide.

What would have happened if Paris had chosen Hera or Athena? How would Strife have played out if he took the offer of wisdom that enabled victory in wars? Or if power and land ownership was manifested as supreme beauty? I imagine many ancient philosophers would have pondered on such things at length. 

Allegorically, I interpret the story of Helen of Troy to be a moral lesson on why one should not try to define or chase beauty according to rigid guidelines or aesthetics alone. Moreover, beauty that is only skin deep will put a man (or any person with a physical body) in a situation in which their life becomes full of discord, a war within. 

The battle at Troy was finally won when the Greek’s turned their ships into a gigantic wooden horse. They pretend it was a victory gift to the Spartans, a gesture of submission, but really it was a trick. Warriors hiding inside the wooden frame snuck out once the horse had passed through the city’s gates, thus giving the Greek’s access to the city which they then proceeded to demolish. 

To the ancients, a horse was a symbol of the intellect. Why? Because horses were a very useful and productive tool (you could say horse technology was once viewed in a similar way to how we now view computer technology). Therefore, there is something deeper, almost intangible, associated with the fact that the Greeks aligned themselves with the intellect and the successful destruction of a city over the sake of a shallow definition of beauty. Conversely, the story could be seen as a slur against Spartans, the initial custodians of Helen. 

To summarise, Hera is the beauty of having power and ownership over a full range of emotions. Athena is the beauty of transformation and the victorious experience of successfully completing a challenge. And Aphrodite is aesthetics, as can be explored through the elements and principles of art (which I also call the elements and principles of life). Thus, the ultimate beauty is a combination of all three Goddesses being in harmony with each other. If one tries to separate these three aspects of beauty then they will need to use their intellect (the Trojan horse), to overcome Strife, especially if one has fallen for skin deep beauty. 

This allegorical interpretation of Helen of Troy, can be put into practical application in a many contexts. In particular, I like to use it when I look at an artwork and I want to assess its beauty on different levels. I ask myself: How does it make me feel (Hera)? How does it change me (Athena)? How does it look (Aphrodite)? 

It could also be used as an allegory for assessing the beauty of romantic partners. How do they make me feel? How do they change me? How do they look? … It goes without saying that if an individual bases the beauty of their partner on looks alone they may want to consider what the wise man Homer once said about Helen of Troy …

Covid, Karma, and the Nervous System (With a Bonus Cheers to the Christmas Peacock!)

There are several reasons why some people don’t want to get the Covid-19 vaccine. These often include fear of side effects, uncertainty about the long term validity, and having allergies to inoculation ingredients. I can fully understand these reasons and respect individuals right to make educated choices about their own health. Recently, however, I conversed with someone who had an additional reason for not wanting to get vaccinated. This person expressed a belief that all diseases, including Covid, were the result of karma. As an extension, the interference was that interfering with divinely ordained illnesses was not “right” because if a person was prevented from experiencing a destined illness, then another would take its place.

Unlike other reasoning for not getting vaccinated, I struggle with the “karma” one because there is no evidence to support “karmic destiny”. People have had allergic reactions and experienced adverse side effects to the vaccine, and in a few very sad and unfortunate situations some people have also died from Covid immunisation. Admittedly, these things played on my mind before I comfortably decided the benefits of getting the jab outweighed potential hazards, so I can fully appreciate appreciations people may have. But karma?!? I guess it really depends upon your definition of karma …


Karma, at its simplest, means cause and effect. In Hindu and Buddhist traditions it refers to reincarnation principles of a person’s actions in one lifetime impacting future existences. Someone once explained this to me as being like if a banker moves from London to Boston they will still be a banker. In other words, a banker won’t suddenly become a garbage truck driver or airplane pilot just because they have relocated. If a person wants to change occupation then they will need to re-skill. The same theory applies to the human soul moving from one life time to the next; people don’t suddenly change albeit being born in a different physical form and placement in life will induce learning experiences (which may explain why there are some highly intelligent garbage drivers!) Succinctly, if someone is an arshole in one lifetime, they’ll be an arshole in the next unless they have consolidated learning experiences that facilitate change and they take up the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Somehow, somewhere, at some point in time the idea of karma took on an informal meaning that revolves around the idea that if something good happens it’s because you’ve got “good” karma and if something bad happens it’s because you got “bad” karma. Underlying this sort of belief is the presumption that the world is good and just, and that some divine judge of values oversees a checks and balances system that ensures justice for all. I’m not convinced this is the case; principles of free will and education also need to be considered. Additionally, I do not believe there is some mystical destiny we in which we are playing designated roles in which some people are *supposed* to get Covid or any other horrid disease just because it’s God’s will or everything happens for a reason. To neglect other considerations has the potential to reduce empathy for others, moreover, can lead to victim blaming and bypasses issues, like stress and trauma. Which brings me to the nervous system.

Before going over my understanding of the nervous system and *karmic* diseases, I’d like to add that the person whom inspired this post was by no means being cruel and did not express (nor would they express) any malicious or unkind thoughts towards an ill person. They are a very kind hearted, loving human. If I were to extrapolate on what they were trying express (our conversation diverted to another topic but I am familiar with the ideology they were conveying), it was that diseases can also be a symptom of the body and soul trying to heal. While modern medicine generally views all illnesses and disease as indications of a person being unwell, there are times when the opposite is the case. A simple example being someone who comes down with cold or flu symptoms after doing a detox. Similarly, becoming ill can be the signal to some people to reassess their lifestyle and make changes accordingly. In such cases the karma, or cause and effect, can have a positive outcome. Thus, holistically, suppressing all diseases and labelling them as being bad is not always advantageous.

Nonetheless, the conversation reminded me of some others I’ve met in the past who did hold extreme views of human diseases being the product karmic destiny in a very black and white, good and evil kind of way, hence, this blog. Additionally, I’d like to say that I do not hold any definite opinion about the human soul reincarnating from one life to another, however, for the purpose of this discussion it will be treated as a valid hypothesis.

The Nervous System

Having a disposition to any disease or mental health issue virtually always relates back to the nervous system. On the simplest level, if a person is stressed, run down, over worked, or not maintaining their health in other ways, they are more likely to get sick, especially with a cold or flu. Step up a level and long term stress can wear down the nervous system’s capacity fight off disease or heal from wounds (physical or emotional). Step up another level where long term stress doesn’t subside and/or a trauma experience occurs, and the body’s ability is in a pretty vulnerable disposition for disease, Covid or other. That is cause and effect.

Obvious signs of stress include sleep disturbances, headaches, and low energy. Less obvious signs of long term stress or trauma include feeling overwhelmed, mood swings, and being emotionally numb (which can lead to addictions). Regardless of the symptoms, all signs indicate that sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are not functioning optimally. In an ideal world, our bodies would always revert back to homeostasis after stress or trauma and, if it did, then when we come in contact with a new stressor, like virus, our bodies would be able to fight it off with relative ease (provided other positive variables like nutrition and/or medication, herbal or otherwise, are available).

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the human body is not a machine, so dealing with viruses (or other illnesses) is not always easy. Some people can fight off Covid with relative ease, others can’t. Some people may be really healthy, with a well functioning nervous system functioning, but by chance they may come into contact with a really viscous strain or other variables impact their capacity to deal with it.

Getting back to the idea that Covid and all diseases were karma, in a way, yes, they are karma, karma in the sense of cause and effect. Likewise, a person with a dysregulated nervous system may receive the Covid vaccine and then get another disease because their nervous system has disposition towards getting ill. Again, it is cause and effect. How or why someone has a dysregulated nervous system is another matter. It could be due to overwork, school pressures or adverse home or social scenarios. Alternatively, they could have been abused, sexually assaulted, experienced neglect, involved in an accident or natural disaster, experienced transgenderationsal trauma, or other adverse experience. If reincarnation is treated as a valid theory then a traumatic past life could potentially manifest as nervous system dysregulation in their current life. Succinctly, disease of any form, and from any cause, could be seen as a sign that care of the nervous system is needed.

Imagine if someone was brutally murdered or otherwise tormented in a past life, so comes into this life with a need to heal their nervous system of the trauma therefore is susceptible to certain illnesses, but instead of care they get judged as somehow deserving of their disposition due to karma. Such a situation would be unjust. Similarly, in a less esoteric example, studies of stress on parents who were pregnant during the 9/11 attacks indicate that if the mothers experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) then their children were more likely to develop PTSD. Situations like this indicate that trauma responses can be inherited and may extend back several generations. For instance, children born three generations after WW1 and WW2 may have dysregulated nervous systems from a seemingly unseen cause.

Adding value judgments to the scenario of people getting ill like inferring they are weak, deserved to be ill, or are fulfilling fate because the universe wants to make them stronger, are cruel and unkind sentiments, especially if taken as an extreme view.

Our science has not advanced to a point in which we can detect underlying susceptibility to diseases via measuring nervous system functioning. Nor is it easy to distinguish between a disease caused by degeneration or healing (I once had a tumour that appeared abnormal on the scans, therefore, the doctors suspected it was cancerous but once it was removed it was discovered it looked abnormal because my body had begun healing and the tumour was shrinking.) We do, however, have some clear indications of what can help regulate the nervous system, which includes creating environments that ensure people feel safe (physically and emotionally), having choice, working collaboratively with others, establishing trust, and encouraging self empowered.

Christmas Peacock

Potentially, if all humans had an awareness of the importance of nervous system functioning then some diseases and ailments could be prevented. Somatic practitioner, Irene Lyons, discusses this topic at length on her YouTube channel. She presents easy to understand short clips about the complexities of stress and trauma, and how healing at the nervous system level can improve the quality of life. Her work is well worth a viewing.

Lyon is not the only person to promote the link between illness, stress, and the nervous system. Another researcher of interest is Gabor Maté. His book When the Body says ‘No’ provides a thorough scientific explanation of the body-mind connection of diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and other common ailments. Maté presents compelling information about stress and how certain behaviours like people pleasing and enabling abusive behaviour through being tolerant can cause adverse health effects to “nice” people.

In the western history, about two thousand years ago, there was another a person who preached similar things, albeit in a less technical language than contemporary trauma experts. Their basic philosophy was to love others and be forgiving while still challenging hypocrisy and adverse behaviours. Much to the amazement of many crowds, this revolutionary person was sometimes even able to heal dis-ease by simply being kind to others, in particular, the down trodden and social outcasts. In contrast, the common medical knowledge of this person’s era was based on concepts like the four humours, and a belief that hysteria in women was caused by their womb wandering around their body. To heal the later, it was believed sexual intercourse could put the womb back in its rightful position, as opposed to the elbow or spleen or wherever else the medical practitioners thought it had wandered to.

This magical person was sometimes depicted as a young man waving a wand around. Other times, they were symbolised as a peacock because Ancient legends said peacock’s flesh couldn’t riot. Further, peacocks represented rebirth because each year they would lose all their feathers and then regrow them with anew.

Sarcophagus of Archbishop Theodoric, marble, 6th century; in the church of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

For those who have not worked it out, the peacock was a symbol of Jesus and his resurrection. It may just be a coincidence but the peacock Jesus went out vogue around the same time (sixth century) the Church made a firm stance on reincarnation not being part of the Christian faith. It is within medieval Catholicism that we also see a version of karma being presented that stipulates if a person is evil they’ll go to hell and if they are good they’ll go to heaven.

The extent to which early Christian’s believed in reincarnation is debatable, nonetheless, this year I would much rather raise a toast and say “Cheers!” to the Christmas peacock who could heal dis-ease with love as opposed to celebrating a so-called virgin birth.


Rowan, Nic. “Opinion | the Spiritual Life of the Peacock.” Wall Street Journal, 20 Dec. 2018, http://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/the-spiritual-life-of-the-peacock-11545350315. Accessed 24 Dec. 2021.

“The Argument over Reincarnation in Early Christianity | Utah Historical Review.” Utah.edu, 2011, epubs.utah.edu/index.php/historia/article/view/578. Accessed 12 Oct. 2020.

Wilson, Ralph F. “Peacock as an Ancient Christian Symbol of Eternal Life — Early Christian Symbols of the Ancient Church.” Www.jesuswalk.com, 2022, http://www.jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols/peacock.htm.‌

“Babylonians” as an Adjective

A few years ago, when I temporarily moved from Victoria to Queensland, some of my new friends called me a “Mexican”. Obviously, I wasn’t really a Mexican, it was just a jovial way to acknowledge I was new in town, therefore could be forgiven for not understanding things like Rugby *really* was better than Aussie Rules. Queensland and Victoria are both be part of Australia and share federal laws, however, some state laws differ (like U-turns) and the climates lend themselves to particular cultural normalities (like coffee shops being open at 6:00am in Queensland – at least so I heard, being a native of Victoria I never ventured out that early). Overall, it bemused me that an American reference to Mexicans being aliens when they crossed the border had been appropriated by Australians. That’s the power of Hollywood movies, I guess.

Humans are creative creatures who like to play with word meanings by applying them to new scenarios. Once a phrase like “Mexican” gets shared, accepted, and used by many, it can become part of the fabric of cultural expression. Thus, language is in a constant flux of change and it is through learning experiences like the one just described, that we build up an urban dictionary of figurative phrases. Essentially, all words are symbolic of concepts that enable the creative studio in our minds to form perceptions and determine meaning.

Biblical writers were no different to people of today in terms of the fluidity of their language and the use of colloquialisms to quickly covey information about groups of people. For instance, “Babylonians”.


Looking across Biblical references, it becomes apparent that in some instances “Babylonians” simply means people from Babylonia. In other instances, “Babylonians” is figurative speech that conveys iconic features of Babylonians, much like calling someone new to an area a Mexican, albeit, unlike my Queensland friends, when ancient Hebrews called someone a Babylonian, they meant it as an insult. To understand the inferences, Babylonians need to be seen through the eyes of Ancient Jews.

Babylonia was a civilisation that arose in the Mesopotamian region. The Babylonian era (1895 – 539 BCE) begun around the same time that events with the Biblical Abraham started to pan out. Long story short, Abraham and his tribe left Babylon in search of land that he believed God had promised him. They wandered into Egypt, where they were held captive by the Pharaoh (who he believed he was a descendant of Ra, therefore had divine leadership). The prophet, Moses, ushered Jews out of Egypt and into the promised land of Israel. A slight hiccup occurred because Israel was already occupied by the Caananities (also known as Phoenicians). This was overcome by killing nearly everyone (this happened to many Caananities tribes, hence, there are none left today to tell their side of the story). The Jews were content with their kingdom until the Babylonians decided they should rule the Jewish territories. The conflict was nasty; temples were destroyed and the Jews went through periods of Babylonian captivity and exile. The rivalry was indirectly due to religious ideology; the Babylonians believed their rulers a had divine right rule because their Kings were supposedly descendants of the Gods. However, Jews believed G-d was the supreme Lord, and that He had given governance rights. In other words, both sides believed they had a divine right to leadership privileges. This a common historical theme.

Getting back to how the ancient Jews perceived the Babylonians …

The history of Babylonians and Jewish interactions is highly detailed, suffice to say Jews were Babylonians, in that both groups of people came from Babylon. Despite similarities between the cultures, like both having Semitic languages, patriarchal leadership, and they both lived according to codes of law, the resentment Israelites had towards Babylonians was intense. In comparison, Babylonians may have been more destructive and demonstrated more narcissistic behaviours. However, to depict the Jews as being a peaceful, hippyish community would be a misdemeanour. Hebrews were not opposed to physical combat and, according to Christianity, their religious leaders, the Pharisees and Rabbis, were often corrupted.

In a nutshell, it is not surprising that Israelites rejected Babylonian values and perceived them as aggressive tormentors who oppressed the freedom of others, however, criticisms of Jewish culture can also be made. Interestingly, the split between the two nations came about very early in history. Jewish resentment can be seen in the first mention of Babylon, in Genesis 11 and with what is commonly referred to in Christian traditions as The Tower of Babel.

The Tower of Babylon

In the following, I go through the story of The Tower of Babel verse by verse (various versions), fleshing out symbolic references in a historical context with the overachieving aim of explaining how and why “Babylon” became a derogatory term that could be applied used as an adjective to describe unsavoury behaviours.

Genesis 11:1 – 9 says: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.”

Conventional interpretations of the above verse usually take the meaning of the passage to be literal. The New Century Version of the Bible even says: “and everyone used the same words”. From a historical point of view, ancient Jews and Babylonians (who were the whole world of Shinar) probably did speak the one language.

In addition to the egocentric literal interpretation of one language being spoken, I suspect the story is more symbolic, as echoed in The Kings James Version: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech”. The whole earth being of one speech, infers it was not necessarily just the same words that everyone used, rather, it was common communication protocols. Communication is not just words, it can also infer mannerisms, intonations, and visual references, physical gestures. Moreover, a person’s ideology can guide their communication style. For example, therapists strive to listen to others with compassion and try to communicate openly so as to build trust and rapport. Whereas, someone with a criminal mindset is more inclined to communicate in a way that facilitates manipulation through coercive tactics.

Getting back to the Tower of Babel, the story depicts things changing when people settled in Shinar, which is a telling sign of Jewish animosity towards Babylonians. Why? Because Shinar is a Babylonian town. The imputation of the ancient Jewish writers is that life before the establishment of Babylonian cities was more a peaceful experience due to a common speech being used amongst everyone.

Genesis 11:3 “And a man said to his neighbour, Come, let us make bricks and bake them with fire. And the brick was to them for stone, and their mortar was bitumen.”

This shared building project being made out of clay bricks is also ominous symbolism. The evolution of building with bricks instead of stone allowed for ease of construction because it was not dependent upon the laborious task of quarrying. Conversely, clay bricks are not as strong as stone. Hence, it can be surmised that the Hebrew authors were saying right from the start that the building project was not made from the most stable substance.

There is no archaeological evidence to suggest humans around the Earth ever spoke the same language. However, from a psychological perspective, at birth all humans have the capacity to speak any language. By a very early age (about 1-3 years) synaptic connections favour whatever vocal and gestural communication a child is exposed to the most. Young children with limited vocabularies can happily play together and share toys. They can even engage in joined activities like building a tall tower out of blocks, however, it is also common for frustrations to arise because toddlers cannot express themselves clearly and each child may be trying to achieve a different building vision. Without mature communication skills (like compromise and patience), irritably can lead to rash behaviour and brick towers falling. From this level of interpretation, the story of Babel is one of human evolution; a descriptor of early civilisation in which communication between people was like that of children in a school yard in which conflicts arose due to communication barriers between peers.

Genesis 11:4 And they said, “Come, we will build up a city for ourselves and a tower whose top is in Heaven, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered on the face of all the Earth.”

The above verse once again hints at the urbanisation in Shinar beginning with people working together. The shift away from communal living is shadowed by grandiose ambition: “let us make a name for ourselves”.

The aim of the tower, to reach heaven, is potentially a reference to a ziggurat, a pyramid-like structure that ancient Babylonians built for religious purposes.

Ancient ziggurat. Source: Wikipedia

The building of a temple (even if it was not a ziggurat), suggests Hebrew and Babylonian ancestors were once united in religious ideology. The physical building of a temple to the heavens exemplifies the notion that communication confusion was intertwined with the building of religion ideology.

Genesis 11:5-6 “And Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men built. And Jehovah said, Behold, the people is one, and have all one language; and this have they begun to do. And now will they be hindered in nothing that they meditate doing.

The term “children of men” is a symbolic code that suggests humans are the product of a divine race called “men” that doesn’t necessarily mean biological males, but I’ll go over that theology another time. For the moment, I’d like to emphasise that “the people is one” and are “all one language” infers everyone working on the construction of the tower all were united through a Semitic language and a common faith.

Genesis 11:7 Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

Here we see humans moving from an egalitarian coexistence into a state of being at odds with each other. As previously pointed out, confounding language so as people cannot understand one another’s speech is not dependent upon dialects. Potentially, the more important aspect of this sentence is the symbolic shift from people understanding one another, to a lack of understanding being attributed to God’s command. But why would God want humans to be unharmonious? Or was it simply a means of expressing human evolution working in accordance to a divine plan? Or is the word “us” a suggestion that the Jews once acknowledged many deities, therefore indicating that the communication confusion was based upon confusion over which deity was to be followed?

Genesis 11:8-9 So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city. Therefore the name of it was called Babel—because there the Lord confounded the language of all the earth; and from that place the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

To a contemporary English Bible reader, the word “Babel” sounds like it is a reference to babble, as in speech that does not make sense. However, the word “Babel” comes from the Hebrew Bab-ilu (“Gate of God”), which is a reference to the city of Babylon. Contrary to many Christian traditions, The Tower of Babel would be more accurately called The Tower of Babylon.

With the inference of babble being removed from Babel, it becomes even more prudent to interpret the confusion of language as not being dependent upon dialect. Rather, the Tower of Babel is a reference to the establishment of the Babylonian Empire being the beginning of religious conflicts. In terms of whether or not this a true depiction of history, depends upon perspective and keeping in mind that the story is biasedly told by the author/s, ie., the Israelites.

The image of people being scattered due to language confusion while constructing a religious tower, I would argue, needs to be viewed not just in a literal sense, but in the sense that conflict and confusion occurred in the theological construction of a religion. Further, to strengthen the argument, it is worthwhile to consider that the development of “language” often has a sacred history. Alphabets are described in myths as being a gift from them the Gods, words are “spells” as in they can be used for magic, and in Christianity, God is the living Word.

Hence, the story of Babel proposes that everyone on the earth once shared a common faith, further it is a metaphor describing the segregation of people into various religious groups. Following on this train of thought, Genesis 11:6 indicates the belief if everyone on the Earth shared the one faith, the united force would enable anything to be possible. Inadvertently, it appears clear that this did not happen because of the Tower of Babylon, thus, subtle blame is shouldered onto all Babylonians.

Other Biblical References to Babylon

As Biblical stories progress, Jewish hostility towards Babylonians continues and is clearly expressed in verses like Psalm 137:8-9:

O daughter of Babylon, who is to be destroyed, blessed is the one who rewards you as you have done to us. Blessed is the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rocks.

The verse is by no means a literal desire for a woman’s infants to be killed. Rather, “daughter of Babylon” is a reference to ideology that male leaders of Babylon followed, moreover, the leaders who banished and persecuted the Jews. The desire to take “little ones” and dash them against the rocks is a figurative expression of wanting to all those who follow Babylon protocols to be destroyed.

By the time the New Testament was written, Babylon was no longer a great Empire, nonetheless, it was still referred to with animosity. Revelations 17:5 describes Babylon as being the “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth”. This description of Babylon as a birthplace of abominable behaviour leads itself to any nation (as expressed by “mother”) that followed and/or had “Babylonian” traits of tyrannical leadership. (See Reading the Symbols of the Apocalypse According to Isaac Newton and The Final Fall of Rome: Babylon and the Harlot on the Beast for more details.)

You could possibly even say that the concept of “Babylonians” is like the concept of contemporary “Nazis”; the Nazis were originally a German political party that initiated wars and subjugated many people, however, the term “Nazi” is now sometimes used colloquially to describe any person who behaves in a militant manner (or simply disagrees with you on Facebook).

In summary, there is a long standing animosity between Babylonians and Jews that can be found in the earliest writings all the way through to the Christian-Judaism era. The appropriation of turning a noun that defines a group of people into an adjective that suggests certain behaviours is not unique to Hebrews. Sometimes when it is done the circumstances are relatively benign, like calling someone a Mexican or saying that all foreign languages sound Greek. Other times, it is done with derogatory intentions, like calling a person a Nazi or … a Babylonian.

Reference list

Dyck, A. (2017). BABEL OR BABYLON? A LEXICAL GRAMMATICAL ANALYSIS OF GENESIS 10:10 AND 11:9. [online] Available at: https://jbqnew.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/454/jbq_454_dyckbabel.pdf [Accessed 20 Dec. 2021].

HistoryExtra. (2020). Your guide to the ancient city of Babylon. [online] Available at: https://www.historyextra.com/period/ancient-history/babylon-babylonia-tower-babel-hanging-gardens-hammurabi/.

Tower | architecture. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/technology/tower.‌

The Final Fall of Rome: Babylon and the Harlot on the Beast

Babylon is no longer the literal Babylon, but the power which has taken her place of pride and empire. That power was Rome.

~ Ellicott’s Commentary on Revelation 17

By crafty and politic management, with all kinds of deceit of unrighteousness, papal Rome has obtained and kept her rule over kings and nations.

~ Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Revelation 17

A whore properly signifies one that is married, and is false to her husband’s bed; and so very well suits the Church of Rome.

~ Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary on Revelation 17

The purpose of this blog is to expand upon Reading the Symbols of the Apocalypse According to Isaac Newton. Specifically, I’m focusing on Newton’s interpretation of fourth beast being Rome; moreover, the power of Rome in its current state of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Of primary interest is Revelation 17:5 “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”. To decipher these words, let’s look at the preceding verses.

Revelation 17 begins with an angel telling John that they will tell him the meaning of the symbolism of “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters” (Re 17:1) to “whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Re 17:2)

To understand what is being revealed in the above quotes, the basic keys to the symbolism are as follows:

  • Water is explained as being “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Revelations 17:15).
The “whore” who is sitting “upon many waters” indicates the religious group the angel is referring to will span around the globe, within many countries, and across languages, just as the Catholic Church does today. 
  • Women in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) frequently refer to churches, synagogues, or otherwise religious groups
For example, Justin Martyr explains “Leah” represents the Jewish synagogue and “Rachel” represents the Christian church. Likewise, the Virgin Mary represents the Catholic Church. 

For more details see Theology of Early Christianity as described by Justin Martyr: Was he deliberately harmonising Jewish and Ancient Greek philosophy? And Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 8 – Dante Alighieri and the Virgin Mother)
  • Kings refers to leaders of Kingdoms
The prophecies of the Revelations were written before Christianity had become Romanised. Therefore, it was written “the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast”. 

Newton describes the "horns" of Rome as changing over time; as one kingdom fell, another replaced it.

For more details see Reading the Symbols of the Apocalypse According to Isaac Newton.
  • Fornication refers to the interaction or connection, not sex.
Just as electrical components are defined by their connective nature of being “male” or “female”, ancient expression also used this crass symbolism to represent two components that connected with each other. Hence the Kings/Kingdoms under control of the beast are connected to the Catholic Church (the whore). 

For a further explanation, see The Big Bang Theory in Egyptian Mythology
  • Wine is symbolic of life force energies.
In Christianity, wine is symbolic of blood, hence it has positive attributes. To be “drunk” on wine may be viewed as life force energy taken to excess, thus tainted love. 

For more details see Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 10 – Personal Declaration of Faith.

Moving onto other symbolism …

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.

Book of Revelation 17:4

The uniform of Roman Catholic leaders has not changed since ancient times. Eerily, Catholic priests’ garments are an adaptation of clothes worn by Roman military and royalty.

Artworks throughout the ages, like the painting below by Jan van Eyck, The Ghent Altarpiece, 1432, demonstrate the colours of purple and scarlet have always been worn by Bishops and Cardinals, thus distinguishing from other clergy. This tradition is an extension of the ancient Roman military protocol in which soldiers wore scarlet, and purple was reserved to show high status. Some high ranking generals had a purple sash, however, due to the expense associated with purple dye, it was beyond the average person’s capacity to obtain purple cloth. Purple thus became a sign of wealth and status. During Imperial Rome (27 BCE – 476 CE) it was illegal for anyone except the Emperor to wear purple.

Also notable in van Eyck’s painting is the tradition of Catholic bishops and cardinals being decked with head pieces of gold, precious stones, and pearls. The sceptres are a symbolic of authority, as per their use throughout the ancient worlds; Hebrew (Moses’ staff), Etruscan, Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, and Greek.

For comparison, any quick Google image search of Clergyman demonstrates their clothing has changed little over the years. Moreover, many orders still follow Roman protocols of colour codes and adornments to signify status. Below are a few samples.

Sources: (Top left) Wikimedia Commons, (Top right) Wikimedia Commons, (Bottom left) Wikimedia Commons, (Bottom right) Wikimedia Commons.


Book of Revelation 17:5

Albert Barnes (1798-1870), a Roman born American, and Presbyterian minister, is one of many theologians who identify the “Great Mother of Prostitutes” as being the leader of the Vatican.

Of the great whore – It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to represent a city under the image of a woman – a pure and holy city under the image of a virgin or chaste female; a corrupt, idolatrous, and wicked city under the image of an abandoned or lewd woman […] – that is, as I suppose, papal Rome; and the design here is to represent it as resembling an abandoned female – fit representative of an apostate, corrupt, unfaithful church.

~ Barnes’ Notes

Despite the numerous amount of people who have said similar to Barnes, the significance of women being used by biblical writers as a symbolic representation of cities, nations, and other groups of people has not been disseminated to the masses. Personally, I blame psychology industries for this failure. More specifically, I blame Sigmund Freud and his ridiculous theory of the Madonna-whore complex. Thanks to the popularity of psychoanalysis over the past hundred odd years, misinformation about the symbolism of women in biblical writings has been circulated, thus has effectively been a double-edged sword that has caused harm to how women are perceived as real human beings, and distorting proper history …

Moving on …

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

Book of Revelation 17:6

The above verse points towards the Roman Catholic Church being a state of disgrace (drunk) in relation to the true message of Jesus. According to my research, the blood of Jesus is symbolic of Love.

The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

Revelation 17:9-11

The above section of the prophecy is potentially the most confusing. To decode the above quote, it helps to recognise the term “hills” is linked to the concept of a “higher place”. In Biblical tradition people would go up to the tops of hills to pray and perform ceremonies, hence, hilltops represent groups of people united by ritualistic practices. Therefore, the “woman” sitting upon seven groups is symbolic of Christian denominations that are somehow linked to the Papal role. Who are these Christian groups of significance? When I first attempted to decide this part of the riddle, I wondered if the “seven” may be representative of church groups as follows: the Eastern Churches (1), the Oriental Churches (2), the Protestant Church (3), the Lutheran Church (4), the Anglican Church (5), the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches (6), and the Roman Catholic Church (7). Thus some have “fallen” from Papal rule; further, the “one is” the actual church the apostle Peter formed while alive, and “the other not yet come” is a foreshadowing of the Catholic Church created in Peter’s name. When Emperor Constantine chose Peter to be the head of Christianity (instead of Paul or another apostle) he blended an authentic impulse of the blood of Christ with Roman culture, thus turning the legacy of Peter into Christianity that can be defined as “The beast who once was, and now is not”. This pattern could be accurate, however, a flaw can be found in that the prophecy says there are “also” seven kings (kingdoms), meaning there are seven “hills” and seven “kings”. My pondering continued …

Perhaps the various broad groups of Christianity only represent the seven heads, and the kings are a reference to something else, like actual kingdoms that the Pope has ruled within: the Roman Empire (1; c.30-400), the Western Roman Empire (2; c.285-480), the Kingdom of Italy, also known Odoacer and Ostrogothic Kingdoms (3; c.476–553), Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire and the Duchy of Rome (4; c.395–1453), Papal States (5; c.756–1870), the Holy Roman Empire (6; c.800/962–1806), and the Kingdom of Italy (7; c.1861–1946). It is more accurate to say some of these kingdoms have fallen (1, 2, 4, 5, & 6), than to try to fit that description to various liturgical rites. Further, all seven kingdoms can be identified as being linked by the practicality of their territories including the city of Rome. On one hand, the historical kingdoms of Italy have also fallen (3 & 7), however, by namesake it continues today. However, current Papal rule is not Italian per se, the only “kingdom” the Popes now have complete jurisdiction over is the Kingdom of the Vatican City which became a nation in its own right in 1929. Perhaps the Vatican is the eighth kingdom that belongs to seven, that is, it belongs to the territory of Rome, but it is separate? …

The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.

Revelation 27:12

These ten “horns” of kingdoms are different to the kingdoms of the “seven kings”. As previously mentioned, Newton recognised the horns as consisting of nations, some of whom still exist today, and others, once having completed their hour, and passed authority onto the beast via their predecessors. Newton’s first listing of the ten kingdoms is as follows:

1. The kingdom of the Vandals and Alans in Spain and Africa.

2. The kingdom of the Suevians in Spain.

3. The kingdom of the Visigoths.

4. The kingdom of the Alans in Gallia.

5. The kingdom of the Burgundians.

6. The kingdom of the Franks.

7. The kingdom of the Britains.

8. The kingdom of the Hunns.

9. The kingdom of the Lombards.

10. The kingdom of Ravenna.

For Newton’s full account of the cycling of power amongst Christian kingdoms, see Of the ten Kingdoms represented by the ten horns of the fourth Beast.

Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

Revelation 17:15-18

I am by no means the first person to recognise the Pope’s authority can defined as “whore-like”, moreover, the role of Pope as a leader of the Catholic Church is a conjugate for the continuation of Roman culture and values that echo the abominations of ancient Babylon. However, unlike so many others who have deciphered the symbolism of the apocalyptic beast (e.g., Newton), I consider myself fortunate to be living in a time in which it is possible for “the woman” ceasing to rule the “kings of the earth”.

The suggestion that the end time of the royal authority of Papal rule has come, is supported by another prophecy. In 1139, a priest called Malachi had a vision of future Popes. Using cryptic phrases he described 112 men, the final entry read:

In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End

From ABC News

For many years there have been speculations that, if the prophecy is true, then the current Pope Francis, will be the last. One of the standard reasonings is that Francis’ parents were Italian before immigrating to Argentina. Personally, I perceive the prophecy may be true due to alternative reasoning, that is, it shall be globally recognised that whomever is Pope, is a Roman, regardless of personal family heritage. Further, the seven-hilled city, whether they be defined by liturgical rites or kingdoms, will be destroyed simply because the masses have access to education, therefore will not accept false reports of history. Moreover, Christian legacy’s of abominable behaviour that includes bloodshed, racism, sexism, and other tyrannical control methods, will be seen as originating from the Throne of Peter. (See blog series Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education.)

As a final reflection on the ultimate fall of Rome, Malachi’s comment about Peter the Roman feeding his flock amid many tribulations, is a timely reminder that the harlot on the beast is not an individual, nor is it any one specific Pope, rather it is culture that has endured through Papal reigns, through Christian communities, and through any other group of people who behave “abominably”; just as it previously endured through Greek, Persian, and Babylon civilisations. Throughout the ages, many Pope’s and Christian’s alike have worked tirelessly to give charity to the sick, poor, down-hearted, and otherwise in need of support and nourishment (see here for some of my personal observations). History is complex, and the good deeds of many men, women, and others, need not be forgotten or ignored because of the title of Christianity. The Harlot is an attitude, a grandiose sense of self, that anyone can display. To look down upon Roman culture as being “other” is a failure to recognise Roman culture can be in “us”.

If/when the Holy Roman Catholic Church comes to an end, the Judge who judges needs to be ourselves. Letting go of an earthly father figure, means accepting adult responsibilities and recognising that the role of defining love and healing (aspects of what I believe to be authentic Christian intentions) needs to come from within the hearts of each individual. The end of the beast’s reign can only manifest if all humans freely decide to make it so.

Reading the Symbols of the Apocalypse According to Isaac Newton

When writing the series Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education, I did not set out to demonise Rome as being a cult that grew exponentially. My conclusion developed organically. It was only when I finished putting down in writing the journey of my learnings, that I was able to reflect back and see that the original ideas of Christianity were noble and that the Holy Roman Catholic Church was not evil per se, rather, it was just a conduit for Roman culture. I questioned myself. Had I got it right? Was I the only one who could see the historical chain of negative influence in Roman rulership that extended back further to Greek influence, namely via the promotion of Aristotle? I knew my research was solid, so I stuck with what I knew to be true. After publishing the series I continued to investigate so as to find others who saw the same pattern. Isaac Newton was a key place to start; he left behind countless notebooks detailing his Biblical research.

Most people know Newton to be a renown scientist and mathematician who helped thrust the world out of superstitious thought into the realm of rationality. Namely, he did so through his work in optics, relativity, and calculus. Less known is the work Newton did on deciphering Old and New Testament prophecies. In his lifetime, he had to keep his findings low key because his views would have been considered heresy and, in turn, he would been expelled from his post at Cambridge University. For a thorough background on Newton’s religious standings, I recommend Rob Iliffe’s essay titled Church, Heresy, and Pure Religion.

Putting it briefly, Newton held strong Christian faith in the existence of God and a brotherhood of love based upon teachings of Jesus Christ, however, he was also convinced that Christianity had been corrupted. Mostly, he points to issues that arose in the fourth century when the Church became Romanised through a series of council meetings. Even more fascinating, he perceived Rome to be the great beast of the fourth seal whose name was Death and Hades, as described in the Book of Revelation. Further, Newton surmised the lesser beasts preceding Rome were Greece, Persia, and Babylon.

Newton’s interpretations were the result of copious amounts of time studying Jewish figurative speech. His faith did not completely align with orthodox Protestantism, but he did share some of their views, such as:

the signification of words in Scripture is to be esteemed and taken only according to the Scripture use, though other writers use them otherwise.

 Joseph Mede Apostasy of the Latter Times (1642), pg. 120
From Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 11 – A Return to Aristotle (Or Did We Ever Leave?):

Newton took a scientific approach to the Bible and analysed scripture to identify language patterns, allegory systems, and symbols that he believed were known and applied by all prophets:

“The Rule I have followed has been to compare the several mystical places of scripture where the same prophetic phrase or type is used, and to fix such a signification to that phrase as agrees best with all the places . . . and, when I had found the necessary significations, to reject all others as the offspring of luxuriant fancy, for no more significations are to be admitted for true ones than can be proved.”

Isaac Newton, Royal Society, 2015, p. 524

Examples of the codes Newton worked out were: Sun = King; Moon = groups of common people referred to as wife; Darkening of celestial bodies = doom for political groups; and Dens and rocks in mountains = temples. Where Biblical texts referred to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Newton claimed it meant Spirit, Water, and Blood.

Through this process of examining symbology, he identified that the prophecies in the Old Testament Book of Daniel were repeated in the New Testament Book of Revelation written by St John.

In Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733), Newton made the following remarks:

Daniel‘s Prophecies […] represents a body of four great nations, which should reign over the earth successively, viz. the people of Babylonia, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

Of the vision of the Image composed of four Metals (1733)

The first Beast was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings, to denote the kingdoms of Babylonia and Media, which overthrew the Assyrian Empire, and divided it between them, and thereby became considerable, and grew into great Empires.

The second Beast was like a bear, and represents the Empire which reigned next after the Babylonians, that is, the Empire of the PersiansThy kingdom is divided, or broken, saith Daniel to the last King of Babylonand given to the Medes and Persians, Dan. v. 28. 

The third Beast was the kingdom which succeeded the Persian; and this was the empire of the GreeksDan. viii. 6, 7, 20, 21. It was like a Leopard, to signify its fierceness; and had four heads and four wings, to signify that it should become divided into four kingdoms, Dan. viii 22. 

The fourth Beast was the empire which succeeded that of the Greeks, and this was the Roman. This beast was exceeding dreadful and terrible, and had great iron teeth, and devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; and such was the Roman empire. It was larger, stronger, and more formidable and lasting than any of the former. […] And by […] conquests it became greater and more terrible than any of the three former Beasts. 

Of the vision of the four Beasts (1733)

I have found it very reassuring that someone of such elevated standing as Newton saw the same pattern as I, albeit, he came to his conclusions via different means. My investigations of negative influences have predominately been through examining the history of patriarchy, a system that purports men are superior and governance of others should be passed down through male lineages. The crux of patriarchy, however, is not simply a matter of male supremacy, it is an ideology that proposes that some males are superior to other males, thus it encourages war between men, racism, and sexism. Patriarchy is based upon the fallible superstition that males are spiritually superior to females, slaves, children, and some other males. Everyone, except maybe those who hold the positions of power, are victims of patriarchy’s narcissistic traits and behaviours.

It is not uncommon for narcissists to believe they have a divine right to rule others due to a supposed special relationship with a Godhead. Narcissists also set standards for others that are unreasonably high that they do not met themselves, then they employ gaslighting techniques if their dominance is challenged. Patriarchy’s shared traits with narcissistic personality disorder continues with grandiose expectations of entitlement and attention, through to violent and aggressive behaviours. Patriarchy, as a pathological culture normalises abuse and, sometimes, even glamourises it as being divine. Many of these negative tendencies can be found in the people who held leadership positions in Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Babylonian Empire (1895 – 539 BCE)

The Ancient Babylonian Empire was founded on the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which today is Iraq and parts of Turkey, Syria, and Iran. For about the past 4000 years, the lands of Mesopotamia have been the site of almost constant conflict, with few respites of peace. Unlike other areas of the Mediterranean, such as the Egyptian Old Kingdom, Etruscans, and Greeks of the Dark Ages, the Babylonian Empire emerged as a patriarchal society very early on. The culture before Babylonia, the Sumerians, had some egalitarian customs, however, by the time the Babylonians had their stronghold, the hierarchal governance gave more rights to men than women. It is in Babylonia that we see the first clear examples of females being treated like the are the property of males, with fathers being able to sell their daughters as slaves or prostitutes. Male dominance was maintained by preventing girls from having the same access to education as boys.

Babylon’s Empire formally began with King Hammurabi, who obtained increased power through a series of wars, notably defeating the King of Larsa, Rim-Sin. One of Hammurabi’s incentives was to access the fertile lands around Uruk for agricultural purposes.

Left: Map of the Babylonian Empire in the second century BCE. Source: Wikipedia Commons. Right: Map of the Mesopotamian region today. Source: Towards Data Science.

The main religious attitude of Babylonia was polytheistic, with many deities being worshipped. Hammurabi believed their creator Gods, Anu and Bel, had called him by name to righteously rule the land of Babylon. His declaration includes a desire “to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak […] and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.” However, Hammurabi extensive list of law codes also included:

  • If a “sister of a god” open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.
  • If a man take a woman to wife, but have no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.
  • If a man marry a woman and she bear him no sons; if then this woman die, if the “purchase price” which he had paid into the house of his father-in-law is repaid to him, her husband shall have no claim upon the dowry of this woman; it belongs to her father’s house.
  • If a father devote a temple-maid or temple-virgin to God and give her no present: if then the father die, she shall receive the third of a child’s portion from the inheritance of her father’s house, and enjoy its usufruct so long as she lives. Her estate belongs to her brothers.

Kings and rulers that followed Hammurabi maintained these misogynistic values. Further, the Romans used the Babylonian concept of law codes to form their own rules and regulations.

At some point during the Babylonian Empire, the religion of Zoroastrianism began, however, it did not gain popularity until late in the era.

Babylonian architecture was mostly made out of mud-brick, hence, due to is structural weakness and near constant battles between city-states, much hasn’t survived. Their artworks depicted geometric patterns and reliefs on the sides of the buildings that featured animal like lions with wings.

Left: Babylon Door. Source: Wikipedia Commons , Centre and right: Babylonian reliefs housed at the Louve. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Persian Empire (559 BCE – 331 BCE)

The Persian Empire began in what is modern day Iran. Like many cultures, it began as a small cult that spread its culture far and wide in eastern and western directions. The era is generally noted as beginning with the ruler Cyrus the Great (c. 600 – 530 BCE). He was a Zoroastrian, the major religion of the Persians, however, there was much tolerance of other faiths.

Map of Persian Empire. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Zoroastrianism faith involves belief in dualistic forces of good and evil that are constantly striving to out do each other. It is here that we see the first clear presentation of the concepts of heaven and hell as being places people may go to in the afterlife. Zoroastrian cosmology references the stars of the Zodiac in what, on one hand can be traced back to Babylonian astrologers, and on the other hand, echos’ sentiments that can be found in the ancient Indian Vedas. The elements of earth, water, air, and fire, were used symbolically in rituals and theology. The importance Zoroastrians displayed towards fire spurred their neighbours (the Greeks) to accuse them of being fire worshippers. To the Zoroastrians, fire was a symbolic means to represent God’s light or wisdom.

Somewhat surprisingly, Persian women received more rights and respect than their counterparts in ancient Babylonia and other cultures (except Egypt). Royal women were involved in military operations, could sign documents, and hold court. Other women could run businesses, own property, receive equal pay, and choose who they married. That is not to say the Persians were, by todays standards, an egalitarian civilisation. Rather, the Persians had prejudices against “lower” classes and foreigners. The situation brings to light the idea that narcissistic traits are not bound by gender.

The great Persian army, dubbed the Immortals, was formed under the command of Pantea Artesbod, a woman. Further, there are several records of female warriors receiving glory and recognition for their skill and bravery in battle, for example, Artemisia of Caria. Artemisia, a name derived from the Greek goddess Artemis, ruled the throne of Caria for a period, however, this was only as a regent because her son was too young to rule; hence despite women demonstrating their capacities to be equal to men, a patriarchal framework endured within Persian culture.

Persian art continued the style of Babylonians, with emphasis on wings and sphinx-like characters. While women received acclaim in Ancient Persia, very few artefacts depicting them have survived.

Capital of a column from the audience hall of the palace of Darius I (c. 510 BCE). Source: BC Campus

Greek Empire / Hellenistic Period (323 BC – 31 BCE)

Ancient Greece has a rich history that has been well documented via their tradition of writing, poetry, dramas, and art. Traces of its unique character can be found in Minoan and Mycenaean artefacts that date to the Greek Dark Ages and earlier, moreover, such findings point towards a monarchical or egalitarian society.

The most well known religion of Ancient Greece is that of the Eleusinian Mysteries. It was an initiation based practice that was open to all citizens who could speak Greek, whether they be free, slave, male, female, or other. The cult centre at Eleusis began in c.1450 BCE with the creation of an underground chamber below a shrine. Annual festivals celebrated the Homeric story of Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, and Hades (who were personifications of the classical elements; see The Four Elements in Theology and Ancient Texts). There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the practices and beliefs of the Eleusinian Mysteries because initiates were bound by privilege codes and subject to the death penalty if they revealed cult secrets to anyone who was not suitably initiated.

The most well known era, Greek Classical Period (480 – 323 BCE), is marked by the works of Plato and Aristotle (it is generally accepted that Plato was an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries but Aristotle was not). Leading up to this period, Greece had adopted patriarchal values. It is plausible to infer that this influence came from Babylonian and Persian sources, along with other cultural and religious trading, for example, Zoroastrian astrology. From 499 – 449 BCE, the Greeks were in battle with the Persians; for intermediate periods the Persians ruled parts of Greece, however, ultimately, the Greeks won the final battle.

The Greek era in which Newton refers to as being the third beast, is that of the Hellenistic Period (323 – 31 BCE). In a very short period of time, Alexander the Great (a student of Aristotle) led campaigns from west to east, conquering Persian territory plus more. Alexander did not rule the lands he had conquered for very long. As a result of disease or poisoning he died at the age of 32, which resulted in conquered lands being divided amongst four of his generals: Cassander (Macedon/Greece), Ptolemy (Egypt), Antigonus (Asia Minor/Syria), and Seleucus (Afghanistan/Iran/Iraq/Turkey/Syria/Lebanon/Armenia/Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan/Tajikistan). Thus, Greek thought, customs, beliefs, and writing became dominate across the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Empire of Alexander the Great. Source: Wikipedia Commons

It is through the Greek language and lens that most of western history has been passed down, hence, Alexander is called “Great”. To the Persians, however, he was only “great” at destruction; buildings, temples, monuments, particularly those of Zoroastrian significance, were reduced rubble. I once read on a social network comment that Alexander’s destruction was justified because he was purging the regions he conquered of erroneous paganism, moreover, the libraries he created were of great value. Personally, I tend to side more with the Persians on this issue and cannot see how brute force and the killing of innocent lives can be ever be justified. Further, the libraries that Alexander created, like the one in his namesake in Egypt, the Great Alexandrian Library, were biased towards the promotion of Aristotelian racism and sexism based upon a so-called divine order of a man’s spirit being superior to that of a woman’s animalistic soul (see Is Aristotle Overrated?: A look at one of the ways patriarchal systems have used Aristotle’s writings to justify male supremacy).

History is never straightforward. As already indicated, Greece, by the time of Alexander’s time had developed through the assimilation of Babylonian and Persian influences. In turn, Persian cultures developed under Greek influence.

Was Alexandria driven by innate personal narcissistic tendencies? Or was he driven by a cultural destain for Persia that he was taught to him by others, like Aristotle? It is hard to tell. There are records of Alexander grabbing a Delphi priestess by the hair and demanding a prophecy reading after being told to come back another day, thus indicating he had a grandiose sense of self. However, it is also reported that Alexander took up many Persian traits, such as dressing like one of them. When his best friend suggested he should dress more like a Greek, Alexander killed him, however, afterwards he felt remorse. Some speculate that Alexander may have also felt remorse for the damage he did to Persia, and had he lived longer, may have made some amends. Nonetheless, that is not what happened, rather the former Persian lands became Hellenised. (The Greek concept of female figures defining groups of people, e.g, Helen of Troy and Athena, has a correlation to the Jewish concept of women and daughters (see Theology of Early Christianity as described by Justin Martyr: Was he deliberately harmonising Jewish and Ancient Greek philosophy?) that appears to relate back to similar hidden theologies in which the realm of the “soul” is described as feminine.)

Hellenistic art was skilfully crafted using mathematical formulas of perspective and precision carving. It featured grand gods and goddesses that embodied the Greek ideals of beauty, Kállos, which inferred beauty, goodness and truth were combined. The standards set by Greek artisans were adopted by their predecessors, the Romans.

Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike) (First century BCE). Source: Wikipedia Commons

Roman Empire 27BCE –

The Roman Empire emerged as an assimilation of Greek, Persian, and Babylonian influences, plus more, like the Etruscans, Phoenicians, and Egyptians. As described throughout Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education, Rome’s rise to being a great superpower took on many forms and is arguably still present today in the lingering authority of the Holy Roman Church and its legacy of defining Christianity.

Map of Roman Empire in 117CE. Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Roman Empire’s great take over was progressive, with the final seal of dominance culminating with Julius Caesar (c.100 – 44 BCE). Prior to this time, Rome operated under a patriarchal republic where by citizens (who were male and wealthy, and/or male and practiced a trade) could vote in who they wanted to be leaders. Caesar was not in the running to be leader, however, due to a series of political and tactical manoeuvres (like unauthorised attacks on the Gauls, the Celtic people who lived in modern day France and Germany) he became the temporary leader of Rome. However, once he had a firm grip on Roman power, he made it impossible for the senate to vote him out. Caesar viewed himself to be above the laws of other men and believed his family bloodline extended back to the deities Venus and Aeneas.

In some respects, Caesar made beneficial contributions, like reducing debt, instigating building projects, and revising the calendar (which may have been influenced by Cleopatra introducing him to Egyptian cosmology and mathematics), but his authority was not respected by fellow politicians. Caesar was killed by knife wounds that were administered by about 40 Roman senators on steps of a Republican meeting hall. The act of violence was spurred by not wanting Rome to ruled by a dictatorship, ironically, however, Caesar’s successors became Emperors, some of whom showed more compassion to the masses than others.

Statue of Julius Caesar (first century). Source: Wikipedia Commons

Newton’s Research

What I have written are broad strokes defining what I understand of the four beasts of the apocalypse if indeed, they are Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Newton conducted more refined research on each of these powers with precise records of Kings, specific battles, and other points of reference that can be found here. In summary, Newton describes the “horns” of Rome as changing over time; as one kingdom fell, another replaced it. He predicted that this would continue until “the son of man” came “in the clouds of Heaven”.

Often, the reporting of apocalyptic prophecies is presented hyperbolically, with the end of the world being stated as nigh. This is also true of when doomsday fanatics share Newton’s Biblical interpretations of 2060 being a time of great significance, however, this not true to to his conclusions. The dramatic events Newton predicted were not of Armageddon, rather, the date of 2060 refers to the final ending of the beasts’ reign.

To be clear, the beasts are not representative of all individuals of Babylonian, Persian, Greek, or Roman decent, rather, the beasts are cultures that exist all over the globe that enable and tolerate destructive patterns of behaviour. I state this attitude with sincerity, in the same way that I do not hold all Catholics as being responsible for atrocities committed by individuals within Holy Roman Church, as described in my concluding blog that explores occult symbolism through the history and herstory of education.

To conclude, my research on the history of patriarchal concurs with Newton’s interpretations that when the “beasts'” reigns come to an end, the prophecies are of good news because the “blood of Christ”, otherwise known as Love, will rule all humanity. Or, as Newton says:

a new kingdom should arise, after the four, and conquer all those nations, and grow very great, and last to the end of all ages.

Of the vision of the Image composed of four Metals (1733)


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History of Christian Bible Publications with References to Media Codes and Conventions

Media codes and conversations refers to written and symbolic tools used to construct or suggest meaning in media forms and products. Media codes include typography, visual composition, and contextual symbolism. Understanding conventions used by producer needs to be grounded in analysing texts within their cultural and historical contexts. Applying considerations raised by media studies to the Christian Bible is a prudent activity if one wants to understand how the scriptures came to be presented in their current formate. The Bible has passed through numerous eras of media codes and conventions, what follows is a brief overview of highlights and associations issues.

The Christian Bible begins with the Hebrew Bible, which began as an oral tradition in the second millennium before the common era.

The earliest written versions of the Hebrew Bible were created on papyrus or parchment, or even leather scrolls that are dated to be from c.900-c600BCE. Old Hebrew was written right to left in a continuous script that had no vowels, capital letters, or chapter numbers. A complete set of writings consisted of 12-20 scrolls.

The Torah, the Jewish Holy Book. Source: Wikipedia Commons

In the third century BCE, the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek. The work was conducted by scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. The name given to the translation was the Septuagint and it is reported as being the work of seventy-two scholars, six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Like Hebrew, the Greek conventions of writing was a continuous script that did not have any punctuation, this writing was called Kione.

The translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek was a significant development that enabled people of other faiths and Jews who no longer knew the Hebrew language to become familiar with the stories. Some reports praise the translation while others are critical of details being changed such as variations in timeframes and ages of characters. Additionally, there are instances of names of birds being altered. For example, in Leviticus 11:18 the Hebrew Bible says a type of bird but Septuagint specifies a pelican; other Christianised versions say owl, swan, vulture, or other type of bird. (See Bible Hub for variations.)

In the first few decades of the common era, Philo of Alexandria (c.25 BCE – c.50 CE) rewrote the chapters of Genesis and Exodus with an emphasis on allegories and harmonising Jewish and Greek thought. He wrote in the scholarly language of his era, Greek Koine. Philo’s versions of Jewish stories were favoured by Early Christians, many of whom could not speak or read Hebrew. Alternatively, if they did not have access to Philo’s writings, they used the Septuagint. Having said all that, it also needs to be remembered that most Early Christians could not read or write at all, stories were mostly told and retold through word of mouth.

Early Christians referred to the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament to distinguish it from the New Testament, that described stories about Jesus. Thus, the Christian Bible is an extension of the Hebrew Bible.

The first Christian writings were letters between Christian leaders and their followers. Most of these are attributed to the apostle Paul, however, whether or not he is the genuine author or a pseudonym is unclear. Once again, Greek Koine was the language used.

Timeline of New Testament events and writings. Created by Renee from various references.

The Christian Gospels differ to other writings in the New Testament because they are not a direct form of communication between people, rather, they are a narrative of the saviour, Jesus Christ.

In Ancient Greek He was known as Iēsūs Christós [Ἰησοῦς Χριστός]. Iēsūs means Son of God and Christós means the Anointed One. There was confusion amongst Romans when they first heard of Iēsūs Christós because they thought Christós was a name, however, in Ancient Greek it was a title that inferred a person was a high priest or initiate. Through the linguistic representation of Christós being applied to all followers in “Christians” it may be inferred that the cult of Christianity did not initially have any formal hierarchical structure; rather, all followers were deemed to be “anointed ones”, a community bound by the premise that they were all “Sons” of God, like Jesus. (The hierarchical structure of Christianity emerged after Constantine Romanised the religion. See Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 5 – Christianity.)

The first Christian Gospel, Saint Mark’s, was written in the first century, in Greek Koine script. Some scholars believe Mark’s Gospel was written by his disciples in Rome, however, it is more probable that it was written in Alexandria, Egypt. Legend has it that Mark travelled to Alexandria where he set up a Church and the Gospel that bears his name was written by his followers several years after his death.

Matthew’s Gospel is credited as being the second narrative about Jesus. Like Mark’s, it was not written by its namesake or by any first hand witnesses. It is generally understood that Matthew’s Gospel was written by a male Jewish scholar, hence, it is in Hebrew. Matthew’s Gospel contains many details about Jesus’ life that are not presented in Marks, for instance, the Star of Bethlehem and wise men who brought gifts to the infant saviour. Such details have strong links to Old Testament symbology.

In Hebrew, the name Jesus Christ is Yeshua Hamashiach. Yeshua means deliverer or saviour and Hamashiach means Anointed One.

The final two Christian Gospels, Luke and John, were written in Greek Koine.

Scholars generally agree that when alive, Jesus spoke Aramaic, the common language of Judea at the time. However, given the descriptions of Jesus’ knowledge Jewish scriptures, it can be presumed he also knew Hebrew. Likewise, stories of Jesus interacting with Gentiles (anyone who is not Jewish) suggest he was familiar with the Greek language.

During the first few centuries of Christianity, writings were copied and collections were gathered at a several locations, most significantly, Alexandria, Egypt.

The convention of writing Christian documents in the codex, parchment that was bound like modern books, began in the second century and completely replaced scrolls in the fourth century.

Left image = Hebrew Bible in codex form, source: Wikipedia Commons; Right image = Greek bible in codex form, source: Bible MMS

In recent history, a person hand wrote the bible using a felt-tipped marker and it took them four years, sometimes writing fourteen hours a day to complete. Hence, given the effort involved in producing a bible, it is understandable how precious and special the manuscripts were considered to be. 

St Jerome (c.347 – 419/20), a Christian priest, theologian, and historian translated the Bible into Latin, which became known as the Vulgate. Jerome added six additional chapters to the bible which included prayers and stories. The convention of writing in Latin was similar to Old Hebrew and Old Greek, however, some indications of punctuation like spaces between sentences were beginning to be introduced. (For background information about other founders see Who Were the Early Church Fathers?.)

8th-century Vulgate, source: Wikipedia Commons

The accuracy in which the Bible was copied and translated is a contentious issue. For instance, did the evolution of grammar impact meaning and symbolism? (See Did the White Horseman have a bow, bow, or bow? for an example.) Did Jerome accurately translate the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into Latin? Or were there anomalies like what occurred with the name of birds when the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek? For instance, Early Christian art suggests the fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden was a fig, however, following the Romanisation of Christianity, the apple began being presented as an apple. An explanation for this change is that the Latin word for evil, malum, is similar to their word for apple, malus. Then there is my personal favourite, Moses being depicted with horns (see Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 12 -Renaissance Artists).

Between c.600-995 the Vulgate, was the only version that Christians were allowed to use.

In the thirteenth century, Stephen Langton (c.1150 – 1228), archbishop of Canterbury, England, divided the Vulgate into chapters, numbered them, rearranged the order in accordance with Jerome’s recommendations several centuries earlier. This development represents a significant shift in technical codes of written language. Spaces between words, capital letters, and the presentation of information in columns were the new norm. 

Benedictine monks and nuns were significant producers of hand written copies of the bible and other ancient texts. Elaborate pictures and decorations graced the pages giving rise to the tradition of Illuminated manuscripts (see below).

11th century – Gospel Book with Commentaries, Byzantium, Constantinople. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Book of Hours, Bourges, c.1480. Source: State Library NSW

When Johannes Gutenberg (c1400-1468), a German blacksmith, invented the printing press in the 1440s, the bible was the first book that he published. It was written in Latin, in 42-line columns; it had no title page or page numbers, thus resembling Gothic-style hand written copies.

Gutenberg Bible. Source: Wikipedia Commons

In 1491 the first pocket-sized bible was produced, which was dubbed the poor man’s bible. It was printed in small font, had a subject index, a summary of the books and their contents, and it was illustrated with woodcuts inspired by Durer’s work. (Durer is the first artist who ever had to contend with copyright issues in printed media.)

“Poor Man’s Bible”, 1491. Source: Southern Methodist University

In the early 1500s, Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) played a significant role in instigating the beginning of the Reformation – a movement of reform arising from accusations that the Roman Church was corrupt. Part of this process was Luther’s translation of the bible into German in 1522. This era also saw a flooding of new iconography that was produced by artists and dispersed via the printing press (for more details see here and here.)

Title woodcut for the 1541 of Martin Luther’s German Bible. Source: Wikipedia Commons

A few years later, an English version of the bible was mass-produced. The main translator was William Tyndale (c.1494–1536) who used Hebrew and Greek references. Tyndale’s translation did not meet a warm reception in England where they were banned and burned. He was accused of deliberately mistranslating scripture and supporting heretical views. For example, he changed the word “priest” to “senior”, “do penance” to “repent”, and “charity” to “love”. Potentially, the most controversial of his word changing was “church” to “congregation”. The Catholic Church had maintained for centuries that there was only one true church, themselves. Therefore, to imply that the church was an invisible structure of people was considered unacceptable. Tyndale was charged with heresy and sentenced to death, he was strangled and burned on a stake – this was often a common fate of anyone who challenged the authority of the Holy Roman Empire.

Despite the initial rejection of Tyndale’s translation, a few decades later, it was referenced, along with Hebrew and Greek, to create the Great Bible that was printed in 1539. Under King Henry VIII, England had split off from Popal rule and was establishing the Church of England. The Great Bible is considered to mark the beginning of Early modern English. Codes and conventions of printed material that we know today are evident in the page layout, numbering of verses, headings, and chapter titles.

The evolution of codes and conventions in the technical production of printing very much coincides with language development and issues of symbolic expression. A Bible printed in 1609 expresses the concerns of people with its title page (which by this stage had become a feature of printed material) that reads:

“THE HOLIE BIBLE / FAITHFVLLY TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH OVT OF THE AVTHENTICAL LATIN / Diligently conferred with the Hebrew, Greece, and other Editions in diuers (different) languages. / With ARGVMENTS of the Bookes, and Chapters / ANNOTATIONS: TABLES: and other helpes, for better underſtanding of text: for diſcouerie (discovery) of CORRVPTIONS in ſome late transſlations: and for clearing CONTROVERIES in Religion”.

Source: Theological Commons

Note: During the 1300s to the 1600s “u” was only used in the middle of words, e.g. save was saue; “v” was used for “u” sound, e.g, upon was vpon; and “w” was two “v” joined together so “w” makes a long “u” sound, e.g. new. Printing eventually standardised all of these issues. English is a challenging language to learn because it was developed as a conglomerate of influences from many languages and therefore has a lot of variation in rules which means a lot has to be learned by rote and remembered.

In 1611, the bible was once again produced with an impetus on authenticity by King James who commissioned its production. Its production involved the removal of the chapters which Jerome added in 384 that were considered to be heretical and became known as the Apocrypha (meaning not genuine).  

Source: Wikipedia Commons

The King James Version of the Bible has become the standard of all modern bibles. While there have been many translations since then, the issues of codes and conventions in its presentation as a media product have become second to the relevance of symbolic codes used in the language.

Alongside changes in presentation formats, the use of figurative speech has also changed dramatically. The retranslation of terms such as “house” into “home” or “household” can have significance repercussions on interpretations. For example, King James Version of Proverbs 14:1 reads:

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

The Brenton Septuagint Translation written English in 1844 reads:

Wise women build houses: but a foolish one digs hers down with her hands.

The New Living Translation written 1989 – 1996, reads:

A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.

The International Standard Version written in 2011 reads:

Every wise woman builds up her household, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands

In traditional Jewish figurative speech the phrase “house” often inferred the “House of God”. The structure of this metaphorical house included a father, wife/mother, daughter, and son. Hierarchically, the “Father” represents God, the “Wife/Mother” represents the Church, the “Daughter/s” (also referred to as Virgin/s; see Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 8 – Dante Alighieri and the Virgin Mother) represent congregations or groups of people, and “Son/s” represents individuals.

By examining different versions of the Bible (like on Bible Hub) it can be noted that the King James Version and Brenton Septuagint Translation both contain impressions of the tradition figurative speech as it would have been told 2000 odd years ago. On the other hand, versions like the New Living Translation and International Standard Version have been altered in such a way that it appears verses (like above) have been interpreted literally, that is the “wife” or “woman” is not representative of a theological construct, rather, as a real biological female. (Biblical figurative speech is discussed in more detail here and here.)

Given that the Jewish framework of God’s House places “daughters” above “sons” it is not strictly a patriarchal model. Thus, it can be argued that some contemporary interpretations of the Christian Bible are more misogynistic than Early Christianity intended.

Issues could also be raised in the how a “woman” (or “women”) metaphorically pull down their house/home/household via the differing adjectives of plucketh, digs, or tears.

Are contemporary Christian Bibles an accurate replication of the original? Personally, I am amazed at how much has been preserved, nonetheless, it is vital to recognise the impact that the evolution of language, customs, and media production processes have had on the Christian’s Holy Scriptures. The application of media codes and conventions sits somewhere between wanting to maintain a sense of stability so as audiences can connect with what is familiar, and gradual change in accordance with sociocultural values, interests, and technology.

In summary, over the past two thousand years, the Bible has evolved from a document handwritten on papyrus scrolls to a mass-produced book that is organised with features that include, a cover, title page, index, chapters, verse numbers, page numbers, and columed writing. The first editions were created in a combination of Hebrew and Greek Koine script, which were succeeded by Latin. Every translation into another language, including latter versions in German, English, and so forth, have presented many challenges and raise questions about the original authors’ intentions. Contemporary Bibles are now easily accessible in digital forms, which is a far cry from its humble beginnings.

As I’ve said before, the Bible may be the inspired Word of God, but the interpretation of its symbolism is a very human activity, moreover, Bible interpretation is nuanced by cultural and historical contexts of its production.

Left image source: Magellan TV; Right image source: Pix4Free

Further Reading

Dr Roy Murphy provides an insightful discussion about additional Christian writings and Gospels that did not make the final cut of the Holy Roman version of the Bible that can be found here: The Lost Gospels.


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Bruinius H. Copying the Bible like a medieval monk. The Christian Science Monitor, 6 May 1999, https://www.csmonitor.com/1999/0506/p19s1.html (6 May 1999, accessed 30 November 2020).

Dines J. The Septuagint. Bloomsbury Publishing, https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=_Gc8CwAAQBAJ (2004)

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Gutenberg Bible. Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Gutenberg-Bible (accessed 30 November 2020)

History World. (n.d.). HISTORY OF THE BIBLE – NEW TESTAMENT. Historyworld.net. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from http://historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistoriesResponsive.asp?historyid=aa11

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Smith, H. (2018). The Case for the Septuagint’s Chronology in Genesis 5 and 11. Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism, 8. https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=icc_proceedings

The Orthodox Faith. (n.d.). The Bible of the Early Church. Theorthodoxfaith.com. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from http://theorthodoxfaith.com/article/the-bible-of-the-early-church/

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Who Were the Early Church Fathers?

Christianity began as a cult in the Mediterranean region in c.30CE. Dr Richard Carrier (author of On the Historicity of Jesus) describes the movement as beginning as a breakaway Jewish sect that incorporated elements from the other cultures, namely, the Greeks. To most Christians, the founder of their religion was Jesus, a man from Nazareth, who preached to crowds and individuals. The evolution of Christian faith then continued via many others who shared Christianity with others. There were many people involved in this process, however, some key personalities who stand out. The following is a snapshot of some of the patriarchs who help mould the characteristics of the Christian Church.

Image by Karyna Mykytiuk, Licence – Creative Commons

Valentinus (c.100 – 160) was an Egyptian born philosopher who studied at Alexandria and is known for his gnostic approach to Christianity. He spent several years in Rome where he spread his ideas about Jesus and Mary being symbolic of spiritual forms, not literal people; his ideas were largely based upon Platonic thought. Valentinus was labeled a heretic, however, his gnostic teachings endured through his disciples who formed Christian groups.

Justin Martyr (c.100 – 165) was born in Rome and raised by pagan parents; prior to converting to Christianity he received training in Stoicism, Pythagorean, and Platonic philosophies. He rejected most Greek philosophy claiming them to be partial truths, whereas Christianity was the complete truth, which most closely aligned with some of Plato’s ideas. Dialogue with Trypho is Justin’s most renown work, in which he relies heavily upon Jewish scripture in an attempt to demonstrate Christianity is the truest philosophy. (More about Martyr’s explanations of Christianity can be found in: Theology of Early Christianity as described by Justin Martyr: Was he deliberately harmonising Jewish and Ancient Greek philosophy?)

Irenaeus (c.120/140 – 200/203) was born in Lyon, France. He went on to become the bishop of Lyon and his theological work focused on refuting gnosticism (i.e., that the story of Jesus was purely symbolic), notably in his work titled Adversus Haereses (Against heresies). His work went on to be highly influential at Nicene council discussions that rejected gnosticism.

Origen (c.184 – 253CE) was born into Christian family in Alexandria and his father was prosecuted for his faith which meant Origen was left to support his mother and younger siblings. He followed a Platonic view in which he perceived scripture to be founded upon a threefold nature of humans as body, soul, and spirit. In early Christianity Origen was a leading figure, however, his following the Platonic view of the pre-existence of souls later become a contributing factor to being labelled a heretic. Origen’s devotion to Christ was great, so much so he is believed to have self-castrated to avoid feelings of lust towards women. 

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.296/7/8 – 373CE) was an Egyptian priest who lived by ascetic values. He objected to Arianism, the belief that God existed before Jesus, which caused great tensions amongst other Christians. He attended the council of Niceane and played a prominent role in establishing what would become an orthodox attitude towards the trinity, the belief that God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus were one and always had been. Isaac Newton was highly of Athanasius and suspected he was responsible for forging scriptures to suit his personal beliefs (see: Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 11 – A Return to Aristotle (Or Did We Ever Leave?))

Priscillian (c.335-385CE) was a Roman Christian with strong ascetic values. He became bishop of Ávila (Spain) in 380, however was accused of sorcery in 385 and was executed. Priscillian views were influenced by Gnosticism and Manicheans, and his support of Arianism was looked down upon. Jerome was a harsh critic of his followers, the Priscillianists.

Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430CE) was born in the Roman province of Thagaste, Africa. Prior to fully embracing Christianity, Augustine spent nine years in a cult known as the Manichees which was established by a (charismatic) leader called Mani who preached doctrines that were an amalgamation of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Manichees beliefs included the notion that if a fig-tree was plucked it would cry tears, but if a Manichee ate the fig then the true God’s essence that was bound within it would be free. Augustine mocks himself for believing such foolish things and his writings express a zealous devotion to Christianity once he converted, however, it is worthy to note that Manichaeism theology has strong views about the world being made up of good and evil; themes that were incorporated into mainstream Christianity.

Augustine was particularly influential in refining Christian theology, which is sometimes perceived as being due to adapting Greek thought to Christian teachings. Ironically, in Augustine’s writings titled The Confessions he reports not enjoying learning Greek writing, reading, arithmetic, and the stories of Homer, but he thoroughly embraced learning Latin. Hence, it may be a case that he harmonised Greek thought through the Latin version thereof.

Augustine is classified as Neoplatonic, being more impartial to Platonic thought, as reflected in his theological belief that men and women were created equal in the eyes of god, inclusive of rational soul qualities. Although, Augustine did not completely dismiss Aristotle, and his alliance with Aristotle on some matters was followed by medieval theologians like Aquinas.

Jerome (347 – 419/420) was born in a Roman province, which is now modern day Croatia. He is best known as the translator of the Bible into Latin. Additionally he translated 14 of Origen’s homilies, made pilgrimages through Palestine and Egypt, and he is credited, like Augustine, with transmuting Greek thought to the west.

Pelagius (c.354 – 418CE) was born in the Roman British Isles and died in Palestine. He was educated in Greek and Latin. He was a theologian who advocated free will and asceticism. Pelagius is also reported to have challenged the idea that a man was to be held responsible for Adam’s sin. His beliefs were at odds with his contemporaries, Augustine and Jerome, both of whom criticised Pelagis. Pelagis gained a substantial following, especially in Carthage, however, he was also accused of heresy.


Looking at the above mentioned individuals, it quickly becomes apparent that there is no “pure” or “true” Christian tradition. The cultures, lived experiences, and educational backgrounds of the Church founders were often at odds with each other. Hence, it was through debates and accusations of heresy that characteristics of the Christian faith emerged. Further, Christianity spread via the assimilation of beliefs, rituals, customs, and symbols from various cultures, existing religions, and philosophies.


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Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 20 – Reference List

The following references is not a complete list of all the sources I used to create this blog series. To include all the reference material I’ve looked at over the past few years would be an exceedingly long list of about a thousand entries. Rather, this reference list is designed more to give a general indication of where others can look if they want to look up some of the key themes that I’ve mentioned. I’ve also listed the sources of images that I used, which are mostly from Wikipedia because that is a reliable source for non copyrighted pictures; I have not relied upon Wikipedia for content.

Abbott, A. (2009). Portraying the embryo. Nature, 457(7230), 664–664. https://doi.org/10.1038/457664a

About Islam. (2019, November 29). World’s First University Was Founded by A Muslim Woman. About Islam. https://aboutislam.net/family-life/culture/worlds-first-university-founded-muslim-woman/

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Borrowman, S. (2008). The Islamization of Rhetoric : Ibn Rushd and the Reintroduction of Aristotle into Medieval Europe. Rhetoric Review, 27(4), 341–360. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25655914

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Everett, C. (2017). “Anumeric” people: What happens when a language has no words for numbers? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/anumeric-people-what-happens-when-a-language-has-no-words-for-numbers-75828#:~:text=Numberless%20cultures

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Galton, F. (1863). Francis Galton – Aristotle’s Meteorology (review) Reader, The(1 1863 March 21):289-90. Galton.org. http://galton.org/bib/JournalItem.aspx_action=view_id=16

Gomme, A. W. (1925). The Position of Women in Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries. Classical Philology, 20(1), 1–25. https://www.jstor.org/stable/262574

Grams, L. (2020). Hipparchia | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://iep.utm.edu/hipparch/

Halton, C., & Svard, S. (2017). Mesopotamian Women. Women’s Writing of Ancient Mesopotamia, 16–24. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781107280328.003

Hill, L. (2001). THE FIRST WAVE OF FEMINISM: WERE THE STOICS FEMINISTS? History of Political Thought, 22(1), 13–40. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26219818

History of the Seventh-day Adventists. (n.d.). Seventh-Day Adventist Church Official Web Site. https://www.adventist.org/church/what-do-seventh-day-adventists-believe/history-of-seventh-day-adventists/

History.com Editors. (2018, August 21). Mormons. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/topics/religion/mormons

Ierodiakonou, K. (2016). Theophrastus. Stanford.library.sydney.edu.au. https://stanford.library.sydney.edu.au/archives/win2017/entries/theophrastus/

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Jordan, C. (1983). Feminism and the Humanists: The Case of Sir Thomas Elyot’s Defence of Good Women. Renaissance Quarterly, 36(2), 181–201. https://doi.org/10.2307/2860868

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Previous Posts

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 20 – Reference List

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 19 – Epilogue

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 18 – Summing Up Symbolism

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 16 – Jung, Freud’s Protege

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 15 -Industry Revolution and Female Artists

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 14 – Female Academics

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 13 – Melting Pot

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 12 -Renaissance Artists

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 11 – A Return to Aristotle (Or Did We Ever Leave?)

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 10 – Personal Declaration of Faith

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 9 – Christianity and Disease

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 8 – Dante Alighieri and the Virgin Mother

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 7 – Dominican Monks & Thomas Aquinas

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 6 – Social Considerations

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 5 – Christianity

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 4 – Gender and Education

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 3 – History of Education (Western Version)

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 2 – Cults and the Occult

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 1 – Introduction

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 0 – Prologue

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 19 – Epilogue

What I have written in this series is true and accurate to the best of my current knowledge. As I learn more, my opinions and viewpoints may change. Others are welcome to disagree with my conclusions. In such cases, I’m interested in hearing information from additional sources that may help to improve and/or expand my understandings.

As many have said, knowledge is power. I feel empowered by what I have learned through my research into occult symbols. Like my interpretation of Durer’s Melancholia, I once felt overwhelmed and crowded by symbols that I thought I *ought* to know. Now, life feels more like a journey of in which I’m free to create my own path opposed to feeling like I need to discover set milestones and met a specific destination. Feelings. They are important.

For many people, my realisation that teachings of love are at the heart of Christianity will be of no surprise. For thousands of years, people have gathered together, praying, given thanks, and practiced Love. For me the journey has been different. I had to dissect ancient symbols from the Bible and elsewhere. I had to pull them all apart, examine their shape, form, colour, texture, and tone, and see what was inside. I needed to check my psychology books and the latest neuroscience studies. I was convinced that I needed to use my mind to work out the riddles and intellectualise the symbols before coming to a firm conclusion of their meaning. But I finally get it, some symbols can only being understood by emotional experience. Love needs to be felt, not intellectualised.

I’ve come to the conclusion that blending Love with the Creative impulse is what matters most in life. The Bible says God is our Creator and that our Creator greatest gift is Love. The Bible also says we are made in his image. Love and Creation. I think my mind could ponder upon these concepts for a lifetime, maybe more.

Throughout my posts, I have been very critical of the Roman Catholic Church. I have used it as the centre piece to explain patriarchal dominance and the damage it can create (especially if blended with religious ideology), but it is by no means the only cult that encourages misogyny that has become a culture. But it is my culture. It was the cult I was raised in. It is what I can speak about with authenticity. (Scholars of other faiths are better positioned to speak authenticity about their experiences and insights, e.g., Sachiko Murata, author of The Tao of Islam.)

Do I feel like my “parents” lied to me about some of the meanings of symbolic gestures, just like my son felt lied to when he found out Santa Claus was not real? Yes, I do feel lied to. Can the Catholic Church ever be trusted? Yes, I think it can. To explain, I need to first tell of an experience I had when working in a government school over ten years ago.

I was required to teach a woodwork class. This was fine, I have university level training in woodwork (which I was required to show the school’s technology coordinator; note, this is the only school in which I have every been asked to prove my qualifications, and I suspect this coordinator never asked the same of male teachers … in fact I know some of the male teachers in the technology department did not have qualifications in woodwork). The class was all boys, 15-16 years olds. In the second lesson, one of them said: “Shouldn’t we be teaching you woodwork?”

“Why?” I asked him. I knew what he was implying but I wanted to see how brazen he was.

“Because you’re a woman and we are males!” He said with confidence, and the whole class burst into laughter.

I was shocked that he could be so blatantly sexist.

The student was reprimanded by the female vice principal. But the problem didn’t stop there. Sexism never stops at just one comment. The boys refused to listen to me. To them, the fact that I had female genitals seemed to equal no brain or skills in woodwork. It was the toughest semester of teaching I’ve ever endured. I began to question my identity and self worth. Was I being true to my femininity by teaching woodwork? I’d asked myself this question while doing my teacher training but seeing as I was within an environment of twenty or so other female woodwork teachers, it was a no brainer. Further, on my teaching rounds and in other brief wood working teaching roles, my gender had not been an issue. Now, however, I would walk into classes almost shaking because I knew if I made any slip ups, like using the drill without pre-checking the last person hadn’t left in reverse then it would not be seen as simple error that anyone could make, it would be seen as an excuse to ridicule me for being female. I had some support from a few male colleagues, but there were also a couple of staff members who were closet chauvinists who sided with the boys.

A few years later, I was offered a position teaching woodwork at a Catholic boys school. I wanted to take it because it was closer to home than my current position (which was at an Islamic school; I loved teaching at the Islamic school but it was 1.5 hours away from my home), but I feared being subjected to the same abuse I’d encountered at the government school, so I told the agency who offered me the position that I didn’t think I could take the position. I was encouraged to go to the interview anyway before completely rejecting the offer. As soon as I entered the school, which was the first time I’d entered a Catholic school since being a teenage student (I left half way through year nine due to bullying issues), I felt a since of warmth that I was not expecting. The vice principal met me with a grin and said: “I heard you’re worried about teaching woodwork to boys. Don’t worry they are used to it, the woodwork teacher you’re filling for is female. If you have any issues, we’ll deal with it.”

I took the position and I’m glad I did. It was one of the most amazing teaching experiences I’ve ever had. All the staff were supportive, not just to me, but to each other. People listened to each other with compassion and every effort was made to ensure I did not experience any sexist attitudes from the students. I was made to feel welcome every day I entered the buildings. Full truth be told, while I was teaching at the school, I was also dealing with an uterine tumour. A few weeks before the end of my contract I was told the tumour might be cancerous. I contemplated keeping the news from my colleagues, but I didn’t. The technology coordinator on more than one occasion had openly mentioned that himself and many members of his immediate family had faced the challenge of overcoming cancerous tumours. He’d also freely said that a workplace was a person’s main social outlet, therefore, if people weren’t able to open with those they worked with, then most of lives were lived in a state of pretentiousness. When I told him of my predicament, he gave me one of the most sincere hugs I’ve ever experienced. Gone were the hierarchal titles of coordinator and teacher, contract worker and permanent staff. It was a human to human interaction of compassion. I’d finished my contact by the time I’d found out the tumour was benign but he was on the list of people I had to tell my good news to. I learned a valuable lesson: love requires openness, authenticity, and vulnerability in order to be shared. (My studies of trauma confirm this to be true, namely, due to Brené Brown work on shame and vulnerability.)

I loved the experience of teaching at an all boys school so much that I looked for more opportunities to do so. For my second time employed at a Catholic boys school I was required to teach art, however, the school did have a female teacher in their technology department. Once again, I felt like I was in a supportive environment. Likewise, in other Catholic schools I’ve worked at that have been co-educational or all girls, I have been met with what my technical mind would describe as trauma-informed environments, albeit they did not call themselves that. Some of the examples of charity and care that I’ve witnessed in Catholic education are so moving they’ll stay with me forever. For example, I witnessed another staff member having a break down to which the leadership went above and beyond to support them, and at a school with a high number of refuges, we were given professional development about the war and Sudanese culture so as us we could better understand the children we were teaching. None of these schools expected or demanded that the students be Catholic, it was all done in the name of love.

If by chance, my writings reach the Vatican, then I hope that the Pope responds with the word “sorry”. The issues I have brought up, such the hidden sexist Aristotelian influence in theology, not allowing women access to an education, and not being forthright about the meaning of symbols, are all things done in the past but the repercussions are still felt today. Forgiveness is an aspect of love. Forgiveness comes after confessions of transgressions. The Catholic Church knows this. Perhaps the Pope has been waiting for someone to confront the Church about its transgressions before apologising?

As most people know, Catholic schools have had a bad wrap because of historical sexual abuse allegations. In my observations this has been taken very seriously, and great efforts to protect children have been implemented. Specifically, in both boys schools that I worked at I saw explicit and implicit efforts made to ensure history did not repeat itself and that, if necessary, those affected were provided support to heal. In other words, learning from the past has occurred. The Catholic Church is not perfect, nor is it a single person or bunch of doctrines, like all religions, it a group of people.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI apologised in Australia for historical sexual abuse by priests and clergymen, and in do so, contributed to the improved culture within Catholic schools which I have been privy to observing. In a similar vein, the Australian government has apologised for the abusive treatment of First Nation People; this did not change the past but it has helped to redirect the future in such away that active measures are being to taken to ensure support is offered to heal the collective trauma. The anecdotal evidence is clear, apologies from leadership help set the tone for followers to re-evaluate their own beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and behaviours, and prevent further abuses.

Until the atrocities of the Church’s past are recognised and apologised for, moving ahead is challenging. However, it must be made clear that Christianity and/or the Catholic Church are not necessarily the adverse influence. If an “enemy” must be identified, then that entity is Roman culture, a culture that began as a small cult of people who occupied a very small region of Italy, Rome, in 500BC. Most of Ancient Italy was dominated by the Etruscans; a culture that had values that emulated gender egalitarian. In fact Ancient Greeks of the Classical era were shocked that Etruscan women had as many freedoms as Etruscan men. The Etruscans were a fun loving culture with sincere family values that can still be found amongst contemporary Italians. (My research suggests Greeks adopted patriarchy along with many other beliefs from the Persians; the Mesopotamian region has a long history of patriarchal leadership that stems back to the Sumerian era.)

Over the span of a few hundred years, Roman’s took control of western civilisations by rebranding and reinventing many facets of other cultures. A pinnacle point was when they seized a Phoenician boat (Hebrew’s called the Phoenicians Canaanites), took it apart, then rebuilt it with improved engineering. By doing so they were to able to win water battles against the Phoenicians and decimate Carthage. Winning the wars (called the Punic wars, 264 – 146 BC) gave the Romans leverage and paved the way for them to dominate the Mediterranean region. I’m not sure how to feel about this. The people of Carthage were sacrificing children to their Gods, a practice despised by Romans, Greeks, Hebrews, and many others, including myself. But was it necessary to wipe out a culture that demanded human sacrifices? Or was it possible to persuaded the Carthaginians to stop murdering their babies by another means? Anyway, that’s not what happened, and Roman’s went on to slaughter thousands of people, including Etruscans, Druids, Celts, Gauls, and others who may or may not have practiced human sacrifices.

Whenever the Roman’s took over a populated region, they would take apart all that they considered to be of value. Basically, they’d reverse engineer then put things back together with a Roman touch. They did this to physical objects (like Phoenician boats and Greek architecture) and to conceptual objects, like Greek literature, hence, Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno, Poseidon became Neptune, Aphrodite became Venus, and so forth. The Roman versions are not completely equivalent to the Greek; the Greek concepts took on Roman attributes and values, but history doesn’t always make that distinction clear (for example, the myth of Narcissus is often referred to a a Greek myth but it was written by a Roman, Ovid, who studied Greek literature then emulated the style in Latin). Likewise, when Emperor Constantine took over Christianity, the attributes and values of Early Christianity became Romanised.

It is not always easy to pierce through the Roman coating of Christianity; it’s armour is thick but not completely impenetrable. By the way, the tradition of knights, as in Christian knights, with armour and all that stuff, began with Roman equestrian cavalry. Likewise, contemporary ideals of romance also stem from Roman culture, i.e., courting rituals of the Romans were regarded as being perfect, hence, to be “roman”-tic was to behave like a Roman. And, Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, etc.), you guessed it, evolved from the Roman language of Latin.

Roman culture has its merits. Hence, it has endured for over two thousand years. Romans had a knack for reworking the best of cultures, albeit, by adapting and readapting the ideas of others they could be considered professional plagiarisers. Or they could be considered to be innovators, artists or creators who built upon existing knowledge to form new ideas, inventions, and ways of doing things. Whether or not all Roman versions of things are better than the original may come down to matter of opinions and/or a realisation that history is made up of people, and people do not fit into neat categories of absolutes.

The Roman Empire has been crumbling into a slow demise for a very long time – the Western Roman Empire began to fall in 395, sparked by battles with the Visigoths, and Eastern Roman Empire fell in 1453, due to battles with Muslims. The Latin language is a dead but Rome lives on in many other forms

Is it fair of me to lump the majority of patriarchal sins and Christianity’s transgressions upon a a group of people and a culture that has diminished? Maybe, maybe not. Or maybe the Roman Empire has finally fallen because the majority of people, people of all genders who have access to education, no longer support Roman values?

It is very difficult for one to leave the cult that they are born into, moreover, the culture that is most familiar to them. About ten years ago, I was fortunate to be able to do a couple of brief visits to Europe as a tourist. High on my priority list was visiting Catholic sites of significance, like the Vatican and various cathedrals. I wanted to see these places even though I’d officially left my Catholicism behind in 1993 when I stopped attending regular mass services. One of the things that stood out for me while traveling was how at “home” I felt in Italy. I have no Italian relatives and apart from a few Italian words that I learned in primary school, technically I have no connection to the country. Therefore, I suspect my bond had something to do with my of awe of the artworks, artefacts, and architecture that I’d appreciated from a far for a very long time. Then and now, I have an uneasy feeling about how they were funded (indulgence revenue), nonetheless, I cannot imagine a world without the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Tintoretto, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Donatello, Titian, and many more. When push comes to shove, I do not wish to see the destruction of Catholicism, but I do hope the Church has the courage to look back upon its past and take steps away from hierarchical doctrines and move towards embracing the core principle of Early Christianity: Love.

At the start of this series of blogs I described my passion for art, history, and psychology that drove me to conduct in-depth research. Now, I must make a final confession. I have had an alternate motive. I have a loved one who is ensnared in a destructive cult. They have been told many lies. Amidst the cult leader’s claims, is that they are teaching the doctrines of Early Christians. The cult does not affiliate themselves with any organised order, however, the characteristics of their leader are recognisable in many Christian cults across time and cultures. This particular cult leader claims their interpretation of Biblical symbolism is more true than any others. I can see how they got it all wrong. History is full of examples of people who have done likewise.

How can this cult leader be judged as a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothings? Simple, their theology and associated doctrines cause harm. They do not put love and healing in the forefront of their teachings. Specifically, they interpret symbols too literally, like blood and disease. They think that to honour God, real blood ties must be broken, and they overlook the role of the nervous system in healing. Further, they interpret the Book of Revelation to be about the end of the world because they do not see that the horseman with a cloak dipped in blood is a cloak dipped in love. The Book of Revelation is not an apocalypse, despite the face value of some of the symbols. When the space between the objects are seen then the Book of Revelation is a document of hope, it prophecies love conquering evil.

Loosing my loved one from my life has turned my world upside down and inside out. In my desire to understand how it happened, I was compelled to reexamine things I thought knew but as it turned out, I did not know as much as I thought I did. Above all, I’ve had to re-examine my beliefs and my faith; moreover, where these came from.

To say one must drink blood the blood of Jesus in order to have salvation, is a curious thing. But when I silence my mind and sit in quiet contemplation, I become consciously aware of the sensation of blood circulating through my body and the functioning of my heart, and then I get this feeling that makes me wonder, how else is one supposed to describe the complexities of love?

A human seeing love is saved and their victory that lasts forever.

Appropriation of Isaiah 45:17 by Renée

To my dear loved one, I dedicate all my research and these writings.

PART TWENTY: Reference List

Previous Posts

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 19 – Epilogue

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 18 – Summing Up Symbolism

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 16 – Jung, Freud’s Protege

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 15 -Industry Revolution and Female Artists

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 14 – Female Academics

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 13 – Melting Pot

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 12 -Renaissance Artists

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 11 – A Return to Aristotle (Or Did We Ever Leave?)

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 10 – Personal Declaration of Faith

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 9 – Christianity and Disease

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 8 – Dante Alighieri and the Virgin Mother

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 7 – Dominican Monks & Thomas Aquinas

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 6 – Social Considerations

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 5 – Christianity

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 4 – Gender and Education

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 3 – History of Education (Western Version)

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 2 – Cults and the Occult

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 1 – Introduction

Exploring Occult Symbolism From a History and Herstory Perspective of Education: Part 0 – Prologue