NOTE: The SB News-Press published only the first half of this column because the editor found "the second half about Jesus and Santa Claus just too controversial."
You may read the whole uncensored column here.
I grew up celebrating Christmas and I’m not trading it for “winter holidays” or anything else.
Greet me with “Happy Hannukah” or “Happy Kwanzaa” or “Happy Holidays” or whatever makes you feel good, fine with me, glad you are enjoying the Yuletide season, but I’m sticking with “Merry Christmas!”
For me this is a cultural, not a religious thing. I did some Sunday schooling at a Unitarian church but discovered spirituality much later in life.
Much more important to me as a child were Christmas trees and frosty snowmen and carols vibrating from the hi-fi radio and nighttime drives around other neighborhoods to see twinkly displays of Christmas lights but most especially Santa Claus on a sleigh with reindeer led by a red-nosed Rudolph.
|Beverly Drive & Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills|
Lugging home an evergreen from Ralphs on Wilshire Boulevard was a big deal—and an even bigger deal for my father who braved stinging pine needles to strand it with colored lights that, back then, were rather temperamental.
Thereafter, all family members participated in the ritual of adorning the tree with glass ornaments, silvery tinsel, a Nativity scene beneath and a star on top. It was a warm and fuzzy family experience celebrated with hot cocoa and marshmallows in festive mugs and much good cheer.
I still have the red and white stocking I hung over the fireplace as a kid and even though it is frayed and beat up I bring it out annually. Just looking at it makes me feel like a happy eight-year-old.
Christmas Eve was a very special affair with friends dropping by and, for we kids, excited anticipation about the impending arrival, once we were asleep, of St. Nick, for whom we set out a note and cookies.
There was simply nothing better as a child than the thrill of rounding a corner into the living room early Christmas morning to find a stocking loaded beyond the brim with chocolate and candy canes and small gifts and, under the tree, dozens upon dozens of beautifully wrapped and ribboned presents for my two brothers and me.
Now the reality.
THE BIRTHDATE OF JESUS
The latest calculation about when Jesus of Nazareth was born—based on the starry sky above—puts that date around mid-June or October or even early spring, depending on the exact year of his birth, which is also in contention but believed to be sometime between 2 and 7 BCE/BC.
An article in the Royal Astronomical Society’s quarterly states, “Astronomical and historical evidence suggests that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet which was visible in 5 BC and described in ancient Chinese records. The evidence points to Jesus being born in the period 5 BC March 9-May 4th."
So why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December?
Answer: The first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine in the year 336 chose this date to coopt the pagan festival of Yule on Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, a celebration that continues for 12 days (hence the 12 days of Christmas) filled with gift giving and spiritual reflection, merriment and feasts, symbolizing a rebirth (through longer days) of the sun and, by extension, new beginnings, meaning an opportunity to welcome a “new year” free of unwanted bad habits (what became new year resolutions).
As for Christ’s mass, the word “mass” derives from the Latin “missa,” which means “sent.” Together, Christmas means “The Christ Jesus has been sent to God” and those who take part in a “mass” are thereafter sent into the world as beacons of light.
This is where we get a wee bit controversial, none of which is meant to demean anyone’s religious beliefs or negate celebration.
THE MISSING YEARS OF JESUS
During his “17 missing years” (between the age of 12 and 29), Jesus, whose birth name was Yeshua aka Joshua or Issa, was in Alexandria, Egypt (some say Kashmir) where He was drawn to Eastern influences and tutored by Zen masters. This is where Yeshua adopted a Buddhist perspective. Even the Holy Trinity (mind, body, spirit) derives from Buddhist philosophy (gut, heart, brain).
Upon returning to Galilee and Jerusalem, Yeshua espoused what He had learned while abroad, beliefs that were totally new to the inhabitants of his homeland:
· Have a spiritual existence.
· Have a relationship with nature and the natural world.
· Live by communal values.
· Be psychologically secure and creative.
Yeshua taught that the kingdom of God is about mindfulness (a Buddhist precept) and he urged his followers to focus on the now.
Yeshua did not preach salvation reward versus punishment, heaven or hell. On the contrary and, unlike the Temple, he promoted joyousness through awareness of the moment.
Yeshua preached the principles of living in the now, teaching that everyone (not just Himself) was a son (or daughter) of God (the universe) and He repeatedly pointed out that people do not need clergy or temples to enjoy a direct relationship with the universal truth.
In fact, Yeshua eschewed clergy, idolization and temples. Instead He favored prayer, contemplation and meditation outdoors in nature and not among fellow worshippers but by Himself in solitude, steadfastly avoiding temples and within them the hierarchies of organized religion, which He perceived to be corrupt.
Poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran put it best: “Jesus was not here to teach the people to build magnificent churches and temples… he came to make the human heart a temple, and the soul an altar, and the mind a priest.”
Yeshua did not preach virtuousness or a moral code or the memorizing of dogma (a word deriving from the Greek “dokien,” which means “think” or “feel good”). He did not try to “save” but to heal; part shaman, part master-therapist.
Yeshua stood up to deeply entrenched and very corrupt political and religious power structures whose superiors retaliated by having Him mocked, tortured and crucified.
It was the Greek orthodox disciples of Yeshua who created a new religion (Christianity), changed His name to Jesus and added The Christ (meaning, anointment with olive oil to become a Messiah).
The legends/gospels that followed became partly based on the Buddha-inspired pronouncements of their savior (even though Yeshua did not believe in idolization) along with metaphorical mythology to promote this burgeoning offshoot of Judaism and recruit pagans into their ranks.
The cross became a symbol of resurrection and, as an instrument of torture, represents surrender to suffering—and also the surrendering of the ego to consciousness in its purest form.
The real message from Yeshua is this: We are all sons (and daughters) of God.
He advocated communion with nature and discovering the peace, silence and stillness everyone can find once they become aware of their inner chattering monkey and learn how to observe, neutralize and coexist with it, thus awakening to the divine within us and discovering our inner godliness.
Nineteenth-century American philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau discovered, embraced and wrote about the Eastern Influence and the tenets of Buddhism.
A century later self-styled philosopher-entertainer Alan Watts and poet Allen Ginsberg, along with a handful of other Westerners, rediscovered Eastern influences and, beginning in the early 1960s, midwifed meditation and mindfulness (along with mind-expanding drugs) into Western culture.
Having read and studied this in depth I realize—should anyone ask if I believe in God—I’m probably a theosophical omnist with a bent toward Christian mysticism and the unfiltered tenets of Buddha.
Add to that my understanding of life’s purpose: Through self-evolution to awaken to consciousness and accept the mysteries we are too limited to understand; to connect with the natural world around us and live fully in the moment; to find out what you are good at and help other people with what you are good at; to live the best life possible and show gratitude.
Which means in some mystical, non-traditional way one might say I found Jesus.
And I found Jesus so truly that sometimes, to my bewilderment, the thought Him brings a tear to my eye.
Another significant element to the link between religion and Christmas is mind-expanding drugs.
New research suggests that every mystical vision in history, starting with those in ancient Greece who attended “The Mysteries” of Eleusis (the world’s first spiritual capital), was likely the result of entheogens i.e., mind-opening substances such as magic mushrooms, ayahuasca (DMT), peyote (mescaline) or ergot (a fungus associated with rye bread and grain) from which LSD is synthesized.
Some historians believe that the sacramental beverage at Eleusis was laced with Claviceps, the fungus ergot.
Socrates, Plutarch, Plato and Aristotle all walked a road called The Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis to take part in the annual vision-manifesting rituals.
More astonishingly, new evidence suggests that the first Holy Communion at The Last Supper was wine and bread (the “blood and body” of Jesus) infused with psychoactive ingredients (most likely fly agaric—magic-mushrooms).
The Aramaic word manna, as used by Jesus, means “bread from heaven.”
This was perhaps how Jesus opened the eyes of his disciples, as promised—and from which they were reborn through mystical visions. When Jesus said, “I am here to give sight to the blind,” some believe it was a metaphor for opening one’s mind.
Or put another way by French novelist Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
When St. Paul was just plain Saul hunting down and prosecuting disciples of Jesus he either wittingly or unwittingly OD’d on an entheogen to the point where he went blind for three days—typical of a massive overdose—and believed he had experienced a vision from Jesus.
Thus converted he became one of Christianity’s most important figures. Indeed, had Saul not experienced such visions, the cult of the “The Christ” in Greece may never have evolved into the world’s largest religion.
The “doors of perception,” as writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley put it (a term borrowed from eighteenth century British visionary William Blake and later adopted by Jim Morrison for his band The Doors), are not—in his opinion—opened by fancy buildings, priests, hymns or books but by entheogens, thus generating God within.
In Mr. Huxley’s view, communion with God means taking an entheogen; that entheogens in their various forms are the common denominator for all visionaries and the birth of all religions and modern cults.
His point being this: One cannot “learn” about God; one must “experience” God through visions.
HISTORY'S BEST KEP SECRET?
In his recently published book The Immortality Key author Brian Muraresku takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through history and demonstrates that entheogens have always been a part of the visionary/mystical process, used by peoples throughout the world (who had no contact with one another for sharing such experiences) to utilize their own indigenous herbs, plants or fungi for mystical experiences.
Mr. Muraresku points out that The Establishment (organized religion in cahoots with government) has striven for 16 centuries to keep this secret, denouncing these rites as “witchcraft” (women or “witches” were in charge of apothecaries and kykeons) to consolidate their own power over populations by preventing the average person from experiencing mystical visions.
So very many people—especially women (mothers and daughters, passing down kykeon recipes)—were tortured and brutally executed by the powers that be (the Inquisition, for example) as a means of concealing the truth about the Eucharist and, by eliminating that magic portal, preventing a direct connection between man and God/the universe.
Until then, Mr. Muraresku writes, Paleo Christians had kept such visionary communion flourishing for the first four centuries CE until the year 392 when Roman Emperor Theodosius desecrated and destroyed the Eleusis sanctuaries and declared history’s first “war on drugs.”
From then on, writes James Oroc in The New Psychedelic Revolution, “The Christianity that evolved in Europe had no obvious entheogenic influences at all, and our spiritual life became dependent on obedience, fasting and prayer… This situation only changed in 1897 when mescaline became the first synthesized psychedelic [from the peyote cactus]."
THE CHRISTMAS CONNECTION
But what does any of this have to do with Christmas, Santa Claus and flying reindeer?
The common denominator, writes Jerry and Julie Brown in The Psychedelic Gospels, would be the agaric (magic) mushroom, to which reindeer are drawn and provides them “shamanic flight.”
And this: Santa’s red and white costume mimics the magic mushroom.
“It is generally believed that the whole ‘Santa Claus’ myth is a folkloric tradition of shamanic travel,” says Carl Ruck, a professor of classical studies at Boston University, “and that reindeer are notorious for liking to eat these mushrooms and become inebriated on them.”
Continues Professor Ruck: “Santa is the personification of the mushroom’s spirit.”
Moreover, indigenous Arctic peoples celebrated Winter Solstice with agaric mushrooms, hanging them (ornaments) from the branches of pine trees (beneath which the red-capped mushroom grew) or wrapping them in socks (stockings) over a fire to dry them out.
Consumption of the mushrooms thereafter brought everyone a feeling of merriment and good tidings of great joy.
Think about that.
But more important, have a very Merry Christmas!