Archive for Theology

Cleansing the Temple

Cleansing The Temple

7 March 2021

Kippax Uniting Church

Robbie Tulip

Psalm 19:1-8, John 2: 13-17

Our readings for today are from Psalm 19 and the Gospel of Saint John.  The Psalm explains how the glory of God is revealed in the magnificent order of the visible heavens. The Gospel reading tells of Jesus driving the moneychangers and their animals out of the temple in Jerusalem.  I will use this opportunity to explain how these texts relate to my own theology, which differs quite markedly from conventional approaches.

Before getting into my own interpretation, it is important to reflect on the great power of the Gospel story of the cleansing of the Temple.  The courage and vision of Christ are presented by John at the beginning of Jesus’ public work with a physical attack on the hypocrisy of the established religion of his day.  The underlying message of this dramatic event is that the institution of the temple had lost its way.  Instead of a focus on divine truth, the temple had allowed shallow commercial interests to come to dominate its practice.  Materialistic priorities had crowded out reverence and prayer.  For Jesus, taking a whip to the traders showed his view that salvation comes through an ethical focus on high ideals.  His strategic vision involved a complete reformation of Judaism to put God at the centre. 

The true greatness of Christ emerges in this story of cleansing the temple.  Jesus is the perfect man.  After taking time in the wilderness to fast and contemplate the message of God, Jesus had come to see how the world fails to understand what God demands.  His ministry sought to address the dangerous implications of continuing on this path of easy corruption and delusion.  Jesus understood what had to be done to change the paradigm from the wide and easy path to hell to the narrow and difficult path to heaven.  He explained the transformation needed through brilliant moral stories and actions, and had the integrity to follow through completely on his vision, suffering a cruel execution on the cross.  His message of messianic leadership was vindicated through his resurrection from the dead, demonstrating that goodness is stronger than evil, and that hatred and error can be overcome through the pure love of God.

The Gospels tell a story with a profound ring of truth, providing a way to transform the degraded situation of our world.  Unfortunately, the church today has difficulty getting people to listen to its message.  This situation makes me wonder if the church today is in a similar spiritual mess as the Jerusalem temple that Jesus tore into.  What really worries me is that Christian theology is viewed in the wider world as deeply flawed, with considerable justice. A profound existential conversation about the basis and direction of faith is needed, making sure our faith is grounded in reality rather than fantasy. 

Modern culture has become quite hostile to religion, and instead largely takes its ethical compass from commerce and celebrity, with some recognition of the moral value of science.  We are far from implementing rational scientific ideals throughout society, but it is well worthwhile comparing theology against the modern framework of scientific enlightenment.  Science demands a central focus on evidence and logic, looking at the morality of our beliefs and actions in terms of their results in practice.  When Christians assert that events occurred which science regards as impossible, and can only point to the claims in the Bible for evidence, a barrier of mistrust arises.  Going back to the start of the modern scientific enlightenment, the philosopher Voltaire commented that believing absurdities permits atrocities.  He meant by this that the church of his day had an imaginary fantasy mentality that was closed off to evidence. This attitude of believing things that were absurd resulted in the church ignoring evidence of corruption, hypocrisy and immorality, with severe damage to its reputation.

Scientific criticism of faith has become even more influential today, with the rise of the internet.  Everyone can now check and discuss claims that seem untrue.  The modern trend is to be sceptical of claims that rest on traditional authority.  As we know, the average age of church members is steadily getting older.  Many churches face an inability to win new young members and transmit the faith between generations.  And the parts of the church that do have success with the young are often more sectarian, holding to literal beliefs that are rejected by scientific people.  That is an approach that can only offer short term success. The future renewal of the church has to rest upon a reconciliation of faith and reason. That means the church has to become more open to a discussion about how some core Christian beliefs have a primarily symbolic rather than historical meaning.

My view is that the roots of the moral problem of the church go all the way back to the establishment of Christendom by the Roman Empire in the fourth century AD.  The message of the New Testament is morally sound, but was corrupted when the Emperor Constantine used the Nicene Creed to insist everyone in the empire should hold to the same doctrine.  To end the political struggles caused by theological debate, Rome wanted to replace the early diversity of views with a single unified belief system. That meant that any ideas in conflict with the creed were declared heretical and anathema.  Unfortunately, that caused the rich complexity of the early church to be lost. 

The political victory of Christianity led to the idea of Gospel Truth, the belief that everything in the Bible is undeniably true.  My view is that such literal approaches are incorrect.  The real truth in the Bible is symbolic rather than literal, emerging with the underlying message about the presence of God in the world and how we can connect to God. This message is too important to allow disputes about historical facts to distract us from it. If we take the Bible too literally, Christians accept a lower standard of historical evidence than is generally used, which damages the whole reputation of religion.  Instead, we should accept that the purpose of scripture to deepen our faith in God means scripture should be revered as a sublime poetic work of spiritual imagination.  It really does not matter for Christian faith whether any specific claim in the Bible is historically accurate.  Christ is the mediator between our world and God, and the point of the stories about him is to illustrate the meaning of this profound spiritual connection with the eternal divine truth of our creator. 

The two texts we have today can help us to reconstruct some of that lost complexity of early faith, by exploring how ancient theology was intimately connected to astronomy, a connection that was largely forgotten under Christendom.  The three wise men in the birth story came from Chaldea, a nation with detailed records of stellar observation going back to a thousand years before Christ.  Across Babylonia, Egypt, India and Greece, as well as in Israel, this religious function of astronomy was central.  Watching the stars had the practical importance for the ancients of marking the seasons for agricultural production, defining the calendar.  The stars of the sky were also imagined as symbolising the state of divine grace, while life on earth is by contrast in a state of deluded corruption.

My view is that astronomy strongly informed the underlying rationality of the original Christian theology, and that restoring this original linkage to observation of nature can put faith onto a more compelling and coherent foundation than conventional church dogma.  Psalm 19 says the heavens pour forth speech.  This remarkable image of cosmic order and beauty helps us to see how the eternal power and divine nature of God are manifest in the things he has made, as Saint Paul commented in Romans 1.20.  The orderly stability of the visible heavens was a source of great wonder and awe and reverence for ancient religion.  This sense of astonishment at the scale of the universe has only deepened within modern astronomy, although the religious connection has largely been lost. 

Exploring what Psalm 19 might mean by the speech pouring forth from the heavens, one intriguing possibility is the astronomical movement known as the precession of the equinoxes.  This movement is caused by a slow wobble in the axis of our planet, like we can see in a spinning top. Each wobble of the earth takes nearly 26,000 years, and causes a slow shift of the stars against the seasons.  Ancient astronomers from well before the time of Christ could measure this celestial motion, because every 2000 years the stars that used to rise or set at harvest time now appeared a month later, creating the idea of successive “ages” in history. 

An intriguing question is how much this accurate observation of the slow shift of the heavens influenced religious ideas.  The psychologist Carl Jung observed that the birth of Christ corresponded to the movement of the equinox point into the constellation of Pisces the Fish, suggesting that this slow shift of the stars matches well to Gospel ideas about Jesus as a fisher of men.

Here are some star diagrams (Appended) I have made showing 7000 years in the stars, illustrating how the conventional Biblical timeline of history could have arisen out of astronomical stories.  Beginning in 4004 BC, conventionally imagined as the year of creation of the world by God, we can see here how the equinox point, where the path of the sun crosses the equator each year at Easter, was then in between the constellations of Taurus the Bull and Gemini the twins. 

Moving forward in thousand-year steps, we see the Easter or Passover point in the stars had moved back through Taurus into Aries the Ram.

By the time of Christ, the equinox point was about to enter the constellation of Pisces the Fish. The alpha and omega point of Christianity, the time of Christ, occurred when this X in the sky crossed the line of stars known as the first fish of Pisces, which occurred exactly on 16 September, 21 AD.

This moment created an imaginary shape the same as the Chi Rho Cross, marking a moment of celestial harmony between the stars and the seasons. 

Since then, the equinox has moved through Pisces, and is now nearing Aquarius the Water Bearer, which is why we are now said to be entering the Age of Aquarius.

This is all simple well-known astronomy.  My view is that the authors of the Bible story were well aware of this information, and were part of a tradition that linked their observation of the slow movement of the stars to the ideas of faith. 

John’s account of the cleansing of the temple presents a remarkable example, one of many in the New Testament, that supports this theory.  John tells us that Jesus made a whip of cords and drove the traders out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. The original community who developed the ideas in the gospel could readily see that this story was a parable for the astronomical movement of precession of the equinox, which was then moving out of the signs of the sheep and cattle.  Jesus began the new cosmic age of the Fishes, replacing the then ending age of the sheep, the two millennia when Passover occurred with the sun in Aries the Ram, defined in Judaism by the law of Moses, whose covenant had replaced the even earlier age of cattle, when the equinox was in Taurus the Bull. 

Therefore, for Jesus to end the corruption of the temple of God symbolised by trading of sheep and cattle also told a cosmic story of the birth of a new era.  Jesus driving the sheep and cattle out of the temple of God represented the replacement of the old covenants of traditional Judaism by the new covenant of Christ, directly symbolised by the observable movement of the heavens.

My view is that the influence of this way of thinking on Christian origins was immense, but the clash with the simplistic supernatural dogmas of Roman Christianity meant that the role of astronomy in religion was suppressed and then largely forgotten.  The authors of the Nicene Creed did not welcome discussion about how the timing and nature of Christ matched the stars.  The whole Christian view that pagan thought was corrupted by fortune telling meant that such analysis was viewed with hostility. 

Opening this discussion now presents an opportunity for dialogue about the underlying meaning of Christian faith.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us to hope the will of God should be done on earth as it is in heaven.  The grandeur of the slow shift of the equinox explains the parable of speech pouring forth from the heavens, and the removal of the sheep and cattle from the temple is equally a parable for the observed movement of the stars at the time of Christ.  Just as Christ provided the earthly reflection for the heavenly movement of the equinox point into Pisces, so too the Gospel story of the Second Coming of Christ reflects the ancient imagination of the distant future, the time now approaching as the equinox point enters Aquarius, a time when the message of Christ will finally be fully understood and implemented. 

This explanation offers a way to place Christian theology into a scientific framework while retaining and deepening its moral meaning for our world through a vision of transformation and liberation, integrating our fallen situation into the big history governed by the slow sweep of the heavens. This material provides a way to make sense of Biblical theology in a systematic way that coheres fully with modern scientific knowledge.  It invites us to ask who are the moneychangers in our temples today, and how the message of Jesus provides rich parables for the need to renew and reform our thinking to do the will of God, on earth as in heaven.  Amen

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Global Warming and the Bible

Robbie Tulip

Sermon delivered at Kippax Uniting Church, Canberra

6 December 2020

Bible readings:

Mark 1:1-8 – John the Baptist prepares the way for Christ

2 Peter 3:8-15a: The eschaton – fiery end of the world  

The theme for today, the second Sunday of Advent, is love. Love is the binding power that connects our relationships and keeps us together.  The ultimate connection of love is between us and God, a relationship mediated by Jesus Christ.  The saving power of Christ’s love rescues us from our selfish indifference and brings us into right relationship with God, with each other and with the world. 

Love is the highest eternal value, deepening all our personal connections.  The love of Christ creates a path toward honest and open dialogue, helping us to build a life of integrity and respect and care.  Where the trauma of emotional brutality or worse has stunned us into silence, the love of Christ invites us to reveal our vulnerable true self to find the liberating way of grace, so the truth can set us free (John 8:32). 

There is a cosmic dimension to the love of Christ.  Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Colossians (1:15-20) that Christ is the image of God, connecting and reconciling everything, holding everything together from the beginning of time as the source of order in creation. This high metaphysical vision of the eternal nature of Christ tells a story of how the love of God infuses the whole universe.  The love of God is present on our planet in the story of Jesus Christ, the word made flesh (John 1:14).  The incarnation of Christ brings us the message of God’s deep and abiding love, coming to save the world and not to condemn it. (John 3:17)

Love can be a high-risk endeavour.  The example of Jesus shows the bewildering cruelty that the worldly powers can deliver when confronted by the innocent honesty of pure love.  The death of Christ on the cross shows how the world is ruled by hatred and ignorance, while his resurrection is all about the ultimate redeeming victory of love. 

Hatred can seem so simple and safe and secure for those who are consumed by it.  In reality, hatred is a bleak and degrading emotion, preventing mutual learning and growth. When our ideas of security teach us to be constantly suspicious and untrusting, the idea that we could live through love looks like a dangerous threat.  And yet the message of Christ is that love is the path of salvation.  The real danger comes from the seduction of hatred, which offers the wide and easy path to destruction, while love gives us the hard and narrow path to life (Matt 7:14).

In our first reading today (Mark 1), Saint Mark begins his story of the advent of Christ in the desert, the dry and barren place where Isaiah said the glory of the Lord will be revealed (Isa 40:5).  The glory of Christ had been foretold by Isaiah, and again by the wise desert hermit John the Baptist, whose spiritual focus on the love of God is amplified by a life of extreme simplicity.  John is at the margin of society, excluded from worldly power, indifferent to the values of image and wealth and uncorrupted by the pleasures of desire.  Here we see the paradox of God’s love, made known in a place that the dominant values of the world find forbidding and unlovely. 

In an uncompromising message preparing the way for the coming of Christ, John looks forward to how the love of God in Christ will break through into the world as a universal cosmic power.  The love of God is freely given to all without condition, just as a celebration that we exist, despite our flaws.  And yet Mark tells us that John put conditions on the forgiveness of God. 

John gives a baptism of forgiveness for repentance (1:4).  This means that while God’s love is unconditional, God’s forgiveness of sin is conditional upon our recognition of our wrongdoing.  John’s baptism provides access to the healing grace of God, in return for genuine sorrow and reflection about our mistakes that have made forgiveness necessary. Restorative justice comes through dialogue and understanding about truth and reconciliation. 

John is saying that our salvation, putting us into right relationship with God, requires that we understand what we have done wrong, why it was wrong and what harm our wrongs have caused, and that we feel genuine remorse for our wrong actions and words and thoughts.  Only when we are truly sorry for our mistakes can we commit to a life of repair and restoration, of love grounded in truth.  The forgiveness that comes through repentance gradually opens us up to a deeper understanding of the love of God, working to build expanding islands of grace and creative power amidst the oceans of emptiness in our deluded world.

Opening ourselves to the cosmic love of God in Christ offers a vision of the possible transformation of our world. Jesus offers us a shift from separation and emptiness and delusion toward connection and fullness and love.  Jesus calls us to embark on the slow journey from a state of corruption to a state of grace, as we ask what it would mean for the world to listen to his message. 

Saint Peter’s Second Epistle helps us to think about this need for transformation with his claims that for God a thousand years are as a day (3:8), and the alarming idea that the coming apocalypse will consume the world in fire (3:10).  This idea of a fiery end to our present age is something that rings too true in our current situation of global warming.  Regardless of any views on literal prophecy, as we look at our current fraught world situation we can find a deep relevance in the Biblical teachings.

Peter took his idea that a thousand years are a day for God from Psalm 90:4.  The traditional reading in the early church linked this idea to the seven days of creation in Genesis 1, reflecting the very slow operation of the will of God in the world.  The Church Fathers believed that just as God symbolically rested for a day after six days of work, so too will the world rest and recover for a thousand years under the rule of Christ after six thousand years of toil and fall.  In this Christian scheme of seven thousand years of history, Christ’s first appearance came four thousand years after Adam and Eve, and served to check the destructive direction of the world. 

Saint Augustine warned back in the fifth century AD that it is a mistake to read the seven-day creation story literally. He said in his book The Literal Interpretation of Genesis (2:9) that if anything in the Bible seems to contradict the perceptions of our rational faculties, it just shows we do not properly understand the message of the scriptures.  The wisdom of the early church recognised that many stories in the Bible are parables, whose real meaning is symbolic, presenting ideas about the real world in a poetic way.  Similarly today we know that life on earth began four billion years ago and has evolved by the natural causal processes of evolution.  

My view is that our whole understanding of the scriptures needs to evolve to reconcile our faith with reason, as Augustine recognised in part.  But this process needs to be far more thorough, so that theology can be recognised as a coherent science.  That may mean giving up some cherished and beautiful traditional beliefs, in order to construct a systematic worldview that fully accords with evidence and logic, while holding to the true core of faith. 

Rather than asserting that Biblical events really happened as described, when there is no external historical evidence, it is better to accept that the stories are primarily symbolic.  It does not matter to our faith whether the descriptions are historically accurate or not.  The idea that God intervenes in the world through supernatural miracles is difficult to reconcile with the laws of physics. 

A better approach sees miracles as parables, conveying deep moral wisdom about the nature of the world.  Jesus himself supported that approach.  Immediately after feeding the five thousand, Jesus explained at Matthew 8:12 that no sign will be given from heaven, seemingly asking us to understand the miracle as a parable rather than as a sign from heaven.

The story of the Second Coming can also be read in this symbolic way.  We can leave aside the idea of a miraculous intervention from God to save the world and instead open dialogue to construct our own view of what it would mean for Jesus Christ to rule the world in love.  Such a conversation can help us to see the real meaning of the Bible in its call in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:10) for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

That call looks especially to the Last Judgement in Matthew 25:40 with its clear statement that our salvation depends primarily on doing good works that include the least of the world as though they were Jesus Christ.  At the same time, salvation requires a coherent shared story, seeing an articulate faith as the essential inspiration for encouraging acts of love and mercy.

Peter’s warning about the coming fiery doom and the promise he relates from Christ of a new heaven and new earth (3:13) can serve as a very useful parable for our current planetary predicament, understood as purely scientific messages.  The Bible tells us in Revelation 11:18 that the wrath of God is against those who destroy the earth, indicating that our duty as people of faith is to preserve and enhance our planetary biodiversity.

A recent scientific article, Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, explains the choices facing the world are to either make the planet into an unliveable hothouse by continuing with business as usual, or to recognise our global responsibility to restore the stable and fertile climate of the past.  The new idea of the Anthropocene means we have already shifted into a situation where human decisions are decisive for the planetary climate. The choice, in our old religious language, is between heaven and hell, salvation or damnation.  These old religious ideas are now acquiring a very practical scientific meaning as our technological progress constantly increases human power over nature. Our moral sense needs to catch up to understand the destruction we are causing. 

The saving power of Christ came from his explanation of the cultural changes that would be needed for good to triumph over evil and for love to prove stronger than hatred.  In Matthew 24:14, Jesus tells us that this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to the whole inhabited earth before the end will come, meaning that the rule of Christ on earth will only be possible once the whole of humanity is connected together.  Then Jesus tells us that all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and will see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory.

The voice of Christ will speak like a sword (Rev 1:16), cutting through our fog to proclaim the clear and simple message of the transformation of the planet, a judgement of mercy to bring the peace of God. As we contemplate the fiery fate that seems in store, the saving love of Christ provides the framework for the existential dialogue needed to address the scale and urgency of climate change as a primary security emergency for the planet.

Seeing the Bible in a modern light requires that we develop what Pope Francis has called an integral ecology, a vision that combines love for humanity with love for the planet.  As we look for a practical redemption by sustaining a liveable planet for our children, we can see that the forgiveness of God demands a practical and thorough repentance.  Christ calls us to express sorrow about what we have done and a commitment to transform our world in love. That means ending the indifference that is seeing climate problems steadily worsen, and approaching our collective problems in a true scientific spirit, grounded in the values of the love of Christ.

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Waltzing Matilda as Psychological Mask for Genocide

Waltzing Matilda as Psychological Mask for Genocide
Robbie Tulip
(3000 words)

Australian history is founded on the elimination of indigenous people by the settler colony. The process of genocide, completely removing the original inhabitants from many of the most productive parts of the country through systematic murder, was enabled by the technological disparity between the local and invading cultures, and was carried out through a semi-secret pact of military conquest. Physical genocide was as much a factor as epidemics in the collapse of Aboriginal population, and was followed up by cultural genocide, banning and belittling the practice of indigenous identity. The overall destruction created profound inter-generational trauma which persists today in indigenous communities and serves to corrupt white culture as well.

The despising of indigenous people in colonial times was so intense that the frontier wars and massacres were presented as merely policing operations. The process of genocide was masked through a culture of silence that continues to cripple the Australian character, with the domestic conflicts excluded from any formal memorials of war. The arrogant superiority complex of the British obliterated ancient cultural and environmental heritage in ways that are deeply tragic and destructive. This immense damage should have been foreseen and avoided, in view of the scale of loss. Instead the process of conquest was paradoxically both celebrated and concealed.

Banjo Paterson’s famous poem Waltzing Matilda is often called Australia’s unofficial national anthem. Its simple surface story of the jolly swagman is well known, for many off by heart. The question why this poem is so popular can be analysed against its psychological echoes of the real history of dispossession, murder and conquest. Nothing in Waltzing Matilda explicitly recognises the facts of Australia’s indigenous genocide. However, all its elements have this implicit metaphorical connection, beginning with the swagman as a symbol for the nomadic indigenous lifestyle.

The metaphorical relation of Waltzing Matilda to the real history of the frontier wars is not something which Banjo Paterson himself seems to have intended. Paterson was at the centre of the nineteenth century construction of the pioneer myth of outback Australia. His writing was decisive in creating the popular vision of white Australia’s national identity. The rugged individualism depicted in The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow presented a courageous picture of heroic conquest of nature. Banjo Paterson is featured on Australia’s ten dollar note, reflecting the enduring esteem accorded to his political agenda of promoting national pride.

Paterson appears to have seen mention of Aborigines as beneath his dignity. This attitude reflected and reinforced the general racist assumptions of his time. No sense of guilt or shame at the recent and ongoing theft of land and destruction of ancient cultures appears in his ‘vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended’. And yet the genocidal intent among settlers to extirpate Aborigines from the face of the earth was well known at the time. In 1883, the British High Commissioner, Arthur Hamilton Gordon, wrote to William Gladstone, Prime Minister of Great Britain: “The habit of regarding the natives as vermin, to be cleared off the face of the earth, has given the average Queenslander a tone of brutality and cruelty in dealing with “blacks” which it is very difficult to anyone who does not know it, as I do, to realise.”

Metaphor in poetry can operate in both conscious and unconscious ways. A poet like Banjo Paterson can be unconsciously gripped by a powerful emotional experience that finds accidental expression in his writing without his deliberate intent. This process can serve to increase the emotional power of his work. The systematic secret murder of Australia’s indigenous people was a core element of Australian outback life in the nineteenth century. For most of the squatters and selectors arriving in Australia’s rich agricultural plains, any initial thoughts of partnership with Aboriginal people were soon overwhelmed by the discovery that systematic murder presented a far more lucrative and simple outcome.

Only a few scattered remnants survived this onslaught, in many places leaving little trace beyond the occasional place name. As a result, the indigenous population fell by over 90% by 1911 to an estimated 31,000. Professor A. P. Elkin wrote in The Original Australians, published in the 1950s, “In 1788 there were, as far as we can calculate, 350,000 Aborigines in Australia. There are now only 50,000 full-bloods. The cause of this decrease is quite clear, namely, we white Australians, Christian and civilized.” Noel Loos, in White Christ Black Cross: The emergence of a Black church, says more recent estimates suggest the pre-conquest population of Australia may have been up to one million people, indicating an even more extreme rate of depopulation through mass murder and epidemics.
Australian society found this experience impossible to discuss openly, creating a traumatised social psychology of secrecy, distortion and denial. Instead of the religious idea that repentance enables forgiveness and redemption, the sin of genocide appears to have been sublimated into various mythological forms, including the religious form of literal supernatural Christianity and popular secular poems like Waltzing Matilda.

The title of Waltzing Matilda celebrates the nomadic existence of the swagman, living carefree on the road with no fixed address. In popular Australian mythology, the swagman is part of the idealised egalitarian national identity of mateship. The iconic image of the swaggie waltzing through the bush as a symbol of freedom also bears strong comparison to the general impression of indigenous life before the invasion, regularly moving from place to place without personal property, poor but happy.

Looking at the real history of Australia’s frontier wars until the coming of the squatter and his troopers, the Aborigines were like the ‘jolly swagman’. In Western Queensland they camped by the billabong under the shade of the coolibah tree in the same way their ancestors had done for sixty thousand years. The appearance of the sheep ended this carefree existence, polluting the clean water of the waterholes, taking over the traditional hunting grounds and destroying the rich fragile soils with their hard feet. Shoving the jolly jumbuck into the Aboriginal tuckerbag was a natural response to this new situation of expropriation.

Waltzing Matilda presents the strange story of the suicidal overreaction of the jolly singing swagman after he is confronted by the settler and his police. Rather than seeking any negotiation or escape, the swagman immediately and conveniently sprang up and drowned himself in the billabong. Comparing this story to the disappearance of Aborigines as a result of frontier conflict, the suicide entirely absolves the squatter and troopers of any guilt or blame. As an unconscious metaphor for the genocidal elimination of Australia’s indigenous people, Waltzing Matilda provided the subliminal comforting message to white society that the disappearance of the natives was entirely the fault of the Aborigines themselves. This Waltzing Matilda complex supports the myth of peaceful settlement, providing an emotionally acceptable but entirely irrational and mythological explanation for the mysterious vanishing of the native population.

The song concludes with the evocative metaphor for the ongoing presence of Aboriginal memory, telling us that his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong. This spectre of guilt invites our pangs of conscience as we wonder what happened to the original inhabitants of the land, while continuing to ignore the indigenous people who have survived the hurt and torment. Australia’s dominant popular psychology until recent times simply ignored the destruction of indigenous people, except as something inevitable and necessary. Instead, the historical focus was on the heroic narrative of the skill and bravery of the British settlers and explorers. Where the embarrassing disappearance of Aborigines was even mentioned in the context of settlement, leading historians were highly deceptive. Claims included that they somehow mysteriously ‘melted away’ by coincidence as the colonial settlers arrived. Such language avoided engagement with the guilt of the deliberate extermination policies.

This situation produced an enduring false mythology about Australia’s history. The myth of peaceful settlement created powerful cultural and political barriers to understanding and addressing the situations facing indigenous people today. A way to help uncover and repair the effects of this pervasive false mythology is to analyse its psychological basis, to explain its ongoing negative impact on efforts to heal the damaged cultural relationships.

Sigmund Freud developed the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious with concepts such as repression, compensation, complexes and sublimation. Application of these terms to understand Australian history and culture is extremely helpful. Psychoanalysis is a controversial subject, but its concepts offer resources to interpret the hidden meaning of iconic anthems like Waltzing Matilda. The concealed psychological lessons help to explain social beliefs, seen in the light of broader knowledge of the historical context, potentially offering a therapeutic path to help overcome the blockages and trauma created by delusional traditions.

The theory of the unconscious holds that much of our motivation is hidden from our rational awareness and instead emerges in irrational emotional drives and symbols. Repression is a key factor in this irrationality, involving an instinctive exclusion of unwanted painful memories from conscious awareness. We imagine we understand ourselves, but in fact much of our awareness is highly distorted by the trauma of repression, especially at the cultural level of the intergenerational transmission of social beliefs.

An example of repression in Australian history is the use of the term ‘dispersed’ as a euphemism for the mass murder of Aboriginal people. A prominent artwork at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra critiques this deception by constructing the word DISPERSED using bullets.
src=”https://artsearch.nga.gov.au/images/lrg/183110.jpg” alt=”DISPERSED” />

When experiences that cause guilt and shame are hidden, they can soon be forgotten at the conscious level, while continuing to fester in the unconscious. Freud held that this repressive concealment does not destroy the memory. What instead happens is that the psychic energy of the repressed story bubbles up into consciousness in distorted symbolic form. Freud termed this process the return of the repressed, generating what he and his colleague Carl Jung called a psychological complex, a maladaptive pattern that prevents integration of the personality. This symbolic distortion of bad memories into an acceptable form can provide emotional comfort or help deflect the feeling of trauma. But this coping process is superficial and does not address the root dishonesty and damage of repression. As a result, repression causes a range of mental illnesses and social tensions, as people come to believe the distortions and myths. Another way to see this Freudian framework of the personal and social damage caused by repression is through the core Buddhist idea that delusion is a main cause of suffering, reflected also in the Christian teaching that the truth will set you free.

Compensation and sublimation are psychological defence mechanisms we use to cope with repression. In compensation, we focus on areas of success and pride in order to cover up and deflect our shameful repressed memories. This process appears in Australian history with the rejection of the so-called ‘black armband’ view. In sublimation, we transform the negative energy of repression into a positive spiritual form as part of the process of ordering our civilized society through conscious rules and values. The processes of sublimation and compensation tend to be highly irrational and mythological due to the distortions inherent in repression, replacing the needed comfort of mourning and grief with blockage and denial.

The return of the repressed operates at both individual and social levels. Looking at social trends, study of ancient mythology has found that gods of conquered people initially disappear from the culture as the new rulers impose their own beliefs. Over time, the suppressed beliefs then re-emerge in subordinate position within the religious framework of the society. The new ruling group seeks to identify emotionally with the country and to rule by consent rather than coercion. The overlords then find that distorted elements of the conquered mythology are congenial as part of their own construction of identity, offering a comforting and redemptive function. A similar process is happening in Australia as modern culture learns to respect indigenous heritage and culture.

The mythological processes of the return of the repressed in sublimated form can operate in modern popular verse and song. A fictional story that echoes historical events can generate feelings of pleasure and identification in ways that engage unconscious popular sentiments, without referring to the associated true story in literal terms. The entire process achieves its social influence and popularity by operating outside of conscious perception, as a psychological complex. Waltzing Matilda echoed the repressed historical story of indigenous genocide in ways that resonated with the shared emotional sentiments of the community, as white Australia sought to deny the history of murder.
This metaphorical psychoanalysis of Waltzing Matilda might appear strained or offensive to many patriotic Australians. Some will offer excuses for the genocide, such as that the destruction of Aboriginal society was an inevitable result of the clash of stone and metal technologies. The issue today is that ongoing exclusion of indigenous people reflects this history of trauma, and there are no excuses for genocide. Those who benefit today from the past theft of land and destruction of culture have a moral obligation to respect and recognise the special and unique circumstances of a people whose ancestors evolved for sixty thousand years to adapt to life on this continent. The extremely long history of indigenous presence generated deeply complex spiritual connection to the land, creating cultural identities that remain scarred but not broken. Indigenous culture should be fundamental to the broader Australian identity.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a short document agreed by indigenous people from around Australia in a meeting at Uluru in 2017. It offers a generous path toward national reconciliation through its proposal for recognition of the enduring spiritual sovereignty of the First Nations. The brusque rebuff of the Uluru Statement by the Federal Government showed how the repressed legacy of the genocidal colonial settler mentality retains pride of place in our institutional systems of power, continuing to traumatise our national conversation. The opportunity for dialogue and a journey of healing was spurned through a reversion to type as the government found it politically expedient to ignore the indigenous request for formal recognition and dialogue.

Working out a path through this tangled mess can greatly benefit from the insights of psychology. Exploring the unconscious resonances of Waltzing Matilda is one way to take forward this conversation. Another is to look at the cultural clash in religious terms. The Anglican Church through its Board of Mission published a study titled A Voice in the Wilderness: Listening to the Statement from the Heart. This study explores many of the repressed elements in Australian history, looking at the systematic and deliberate blindness that white society has employed in efforts to forget the legacy of genocide.
As an example of the religious echoes of Australia’s experience of genocide discussed in A Voice in the Wilderness, the original Biblical story of the human fall from grace into corruption tells of the murder of Abel by Cain, representing the victory of settled farmers over nomadic hunters and herders. In this conflict between the sons of Adam and Eve, God tells us that the blood of Abel cries out from the earth. The curse of Cain arises from the earth as a result of his lying to God about the murder, as a sign that the voices of the dead do matter, that we are our brother’s keepers. Continuing to lie about Australia’s history of murder means that we too live under the curse of Cain, marked by pervasive psychological damage.

This mythological reflection of cultural evolution continues into the story of Jesus Christ, who stood up against the invading Roman Empire in the name of the despised and rejected of the world. The repressive and belittling imperial response was crucifixion, but the moral victory of Christ is symbolised in the resurrection, marking the return of the repressed. Christ’s core message that forgiveness is conditional upon repentance rests upon a vision of universal love, seeing restorative justice as the truth that sets us free. Jesus was an Aborigine, and his ghost may be heard as his blood cries from the earth.

As we now look for a redeeming and unifying path to moral legitimacy in Australian national identity, an essential task is to expose the distorted myths of ignorant racial prejudice that continue to oppress indigenous people. Exploring the echoes of self-serving racism in Waltzing Matilda is one way to pursue this conversation, rebalancing the justified pride in national achievements against an open statement of lament and sorrow, repenting for the savage genocide of Australia’s indigenous cultures. Honouring the spiritual sovereignty of indigenous people as expressed in the beautiful poetry of the Uluru Statement offers a bridge to cultural integration, listening with respect to the sacred call for Makarrata, coming together in fair and truthful relationship.

References
Robbie Tulip was born in Epping NSW in 1963, and is a sixth generation descendant of English and Scottish emigrants to Queensland.
Tatz, Colin, Genocide in Australia, An AIATSIS Research Discussion Paper, 1999, https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/products/discussion_paper/tatzc-dp08-genocide-in-australia.pdf
Tatz, Colin, Genocide in Australia, An AIATSIS Research Discussion Paper, 1999, https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/products/discussion_paper/tatzc-dp08-genocide-in-australia.pdf
Elkin and Loos are cited in A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS: Listening to the Statement from the Heart, An ABM Study Guide for Individuals and Groups, Author: Celia Kemp, Reconciliation Coordinator, Artist: The Reverend Glenn Loughrey https://www.abmission.org/resources.php/163/a-voice-in-the-wilderness
John Harris, Hiding the bodies: the myth of the humane colonisation of Aboriginal Australia
http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p73641/pdf/ch0550.pdf
Fiona Foley, Badtjala people | Maryborough, Queensland, Australia born 1964 DISPERSED 2008 https://artsearch.nga.gov.au/detail.cfm?irn=183110
John 8:32
Robert Graves, Introduction to the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology
https://ulurustatement.org/
A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS: Listening to the Statement from the Heart, An ABM Study Guide for Individuals and Groups, Author: Celia Kemp, Reconciliation Coordinator, Artist: The Reverend Glenn Loughrey https://www.abmission.org/resources.php/163/a-voice-in-the-wilderness
Genesis 4
Mark 1:4

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The Peace of Christ

Here is the sermon I delivered to Kippax Uniting Church on Sunday 5 July 2020

Bible readings: Zechariah 9:9-12, Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 145:8-14

Sermon – The Peace of Christ
The prophet Zechariah lived more than 500 years before Christ, shortly after the captive Israelites returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Zechariah’s vision of the coming Messiah is one of the most thrilling stories in the Bible, telling of the presence of God in history. Handel used this text for the wonderful soprano Air in The Messiah, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! I have put a link to this Messiah piece on the Kippax Uniting Church Facebook page if you would like to listen to it. Here is a short excerpt.

Zechariah’s statement that the Messiah would command peace to all the nations is similar to Isaiah’s prophecy of the Prince of Peace, preaching a fellowship of reconciliation, a community of forgiveness and mercy, a world of restorative justice. These teachings envisage the advent of Jesus Christ as transforming our prevailing beliefs, including our systems of military security. Rather than seeking safety in war horses and chariots and armies and swords, the prophets predict a time when security will be delivered through shared universal faith in God, mediated by Christ.

Security is a primary theme for the prophets, with the idea that Israel as a small nation surrounded by large empires can only achieve durable peace by building friendly cooperative relations with its neighbours, removing any incentive to invade. Hence the ultimate security emerges through the shared identity and solidarity that comes through the trust of a common faith, the connection arising from open regular communication and friendship, a goal that of course has been elusive.

Zechariah points to the paradoxes of Christianity with his vision of Christ as King. Power will come through love rather than physical strength. The true leader is humble rather than proud and arrogant. The Saviour of Israel will humble himself to ride a donkey rather than a war horse. Triumph and victory come from speaking of peace and respect. What God sees within the inner life of our heart is more important than our reputation in the world.

Looking to the theology, the message is that actions that advance the Kingdom of God often conflict with the prevailing assumptions and values in human life. Many people who gain worldly power seek prestige and control and fame and wealth, whereas Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that the blessing of God is for the peacemakers, the meek, the poor in spirit and the pure. Christ tells us in the Last Judgement that if we want salvation, we should perform works of mercy such as feeding the hungry and visiting prisoners. Creating peace in the world is all about building deep connection.

We can well imagine how these teachings must have infuriated and confused the powers of Jesus’ day. The Gospels tell us the consequences when Jesus Christ proclaimed these teachings about the path of peace. He struck such fear into the local leadership in Jerusalem that they arranged for the Roman Empire to execute him as a seditious political criminal, in the most cruel and gruesome and painful way possible, mocked and scourged and nailed to a cross.

This idea from Zechariah of peace through a transformative faith looks idiotic to rulers when their nation faces invasion and military occupation. The leaders of Jerusalem wanted to send a signal to Rome that they rejected messianic prophecy as a practical government policy. And so they failed to see the true identity of Christ.

As Saint Paul wrote in First Corinthians, the message of the cross seems like foolishness to the world. However, the story of the resurrection tells us there is an eternal power of God in this apparent worldly weakness and failure. We need patience to await a time when such transforming ideas will get a serious audience. Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:14 that the sign of his coming would be that this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations. That is something that has only occurred with the global connections of modern times.

The world was certainly not ready for this prophetic message of peace two thousand years ago. So how remarkable that Zechariah brought such tidings of great joy, the prophecy of the Messiah as king of the world. The powerful story tells of Christ ruling the world in truth and grace through the wonders of His love, as the hymn Joy to the World proclaims. Zechariah imagines a time when Jerusalem will be a centre of peace and love rather than war and hatred. He calls his readers “prisoners of hope”, a very peculiar phrase. Zechariah seems here to suggest that people of true faith are captured by this seemingly impossible vision of a world transformed, that we are compelled to proclaim the good news of Christ. We are probably still not ready for such a paradigm shift in world politics, understood as a kingdom of this world. Yet as Christians we are called to imagine what it could mean.

What would it mean for Christ to rule the world as Zechariah imagines? Jesus himself tells us in the text for today that his aim is to lift our heavy burdens and relieve our weariness. He says his gentle and humble heart will lead us with an easy yoke and a light burden. This image of liberation from our troubles and traumas rests on faith in God as the source of transformation. Jesus calls us to overcome the weight of worldly corruption through the power of love, creating a path toward a universal life of grace and peace for all. That is not something that will happen quickly or easily, but it invites us to think about what the peace of Christ really means.

One text that I have always admired in this light is the old Chinese wisdom book from Taoism, the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. The title Tao Te Ching translates as the Book of the Way of Integrity. It includes a remarkable statement about leadership that I think bears comparison with the messianic vision of peace in Zechariah. Lao Tzu tells us that the best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects, while the next best leaders are those who are loved and praised. He says bad leaders are feared, while the worst are despised. When the best rulers achieve their purpose, their people claim the achievement as their own.

I was reminded of this text firstly by the comment from Jesus that his yoke is easy, rather like the leader who is not even known. A yoke keeps two oxen in line to pull a plough, joining their strength together. This forced obedience of the yoke is often used as a symbol of political oppression, but Jesus inverts the symbol to suggest that obeying the light yoke of his teachings will create freedom. This is the type of king who Zechariah suggests can bring universal peace to the world by tuning in to the will of God, liberating rather than dominating. The king who freely chooses to make his triumphant entry riding a donkey displays that his concern is not for his own advantage, but entirely for the good results that will come from his decisions and actions. As Saint Paul explains in his letter to the Philippians, Jesus emptied himself of all but love, making himself a slave to God. This obedience to the moral call of God is what Zechariah called becoming a prisoner of hope. The eastern philosophy that sees the individual as united to the whole universe expresses this self-emptying idea by comparing our personal identity to a drop of water in the ocean.

We are so far away from rule by the unknown king of love that it seems impossible. Yet this high prophecy calls us to imagine and create the world we want to eventually build, a world of complete freedom and justice and peace. As the Lord’s Prayer puts it, a world where the will of God is done on earth as in heaven. This is a utopian dream of universal abundance and trust, where material needs are fully met and everyone can focus on spiritual fulfillment, creating a situation of high ethical values and education. In this imaginary future, good governance will arise naturally and democratically from shared values. Ability to make local decisions will be so strong that there will be no role for rulers other than to gently guide and coordinate the decisions that people have made for themselves. As Lao Tzu suggests, the best leaders will bring peace and justice to the world in a way that is not even known to the people, because these values of trust and care will be so strongly ingrained in the structure of society. The yoke of government will be easy to bear. These things do all sound fanciful. And yet we have been constantly amazed at how technology has transformed our lives in a few short years. Perhaps in the future such a vision will become reality, although changing people is probably much harder than changing technology. The timeline of the ancient wisdom of the Bible sees a thousand years as a day for God, which is the sort of period that would be needed for such a change in human nature through broad acceptance of the values of the gospel.

Jesus tells us that the gospel values that are needed to gradually aim toward such a heaven on earth are all about caring for the least of the world as though they were him. That is an integral vision that includes care for the poor as well as care for nature, as Pope Francis proposed in his Laudato Si encyclical. The scale of trauma in the world means that such a vision might well take another thousand years to bring about, but if the goal is set clearly, then gradual steady progress can occur. Setting such a positive hopeful goal and discussing it can support the social purpose of confronting the negative values that are dragging us towards conflict and collapse.

As the Psalmist said in our reading, God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The immense problems in our world mean the slow anger of God is gradually building. And yet the presence of authentic faith has a redeeming quality, with capacity to help to atone for all our heedless destructive actions. The abounding steadfast love and gracious mercy of God will remain with us and protect us through the holy word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Amen

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Blessed Are The Meek – An Evolutionary Perspective

The statement by Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes that the meek will inherit the earth is counterintuitive and controversial. We usually think the strong, the powerful and the assertive will inherit the lion’s share. The meek are seen as weak and ineffectual. The Bible tells us that this vision of the meek inheriting the earth will be despised and rejected.
However, we can also read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 as Jesus presenting an accurate long term vision of power, seeing the power of love and integrity as the key to the kingdom of God, not as an afterlife but as a necessary vision of sustainable living on earth.
Implementing the prayer of Christ that the will of God may be done on earth as in heaven means transforming the current fallen state of depraved corruption into an enlightened community of grace and love, confronting flawed worldly assumptions with a higher wisdom. The divine blessing on the meek challenges our instinctive beliefs with a vision of salvation that we can interpret in terms of natural evolution.
What does it mean to inherit the earth? Natural evolution is all about scientific understanding of who will inherit the earth. The biological question is which genes will prove most stable, durable and fecund over the long term.
Think about the long term – not just decades and centuries, but millions of years. Who will still inherit the earth in a million years?
For humans to survive that long, we need to engage with the earth with humility. In evolutionary terms, those who inherit the earth are those who adapt to selective pressures. Will humans have overcome our current madness? Will we go extinct? Will the earth be inherited by bacteria, algae and insects? Do humans have the brains to transform our destructive culture to create a path of sustained flourishing and abundance for all?
The Bible presents a stark challenge to this prospect of evolutionary transformation, with the apocalyptic vision of global catastrophe. The bleak prophecy of the future is that the power of evil delusion is so great that civilization collapses and human population falls to a tiny number. War, famine, plague and death stalk the planet as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
The only hope of salvation the Bible presents from this destructive outlook is through Christ, who provides a vision of how to connect our lost culture to the enduring eternal truths of God.
Such prophecies can be read as more than supernatural fantasy, in presenting symbolic parables for the current planetary risks posed by climate change, and how we can respond to these risks. Human arrogance imagines we can ignore the power of nature. The last great catastrophe was 65 million years ago with the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Only the meek survived, while the powerful creatures that required a large quantity of energy could not endure the crisis. We are now causing the sixth planetary extinction, illustrating that on the current trajectory, humans could well follow the example of the dinosaurs and go extinct.
Our world is highly fragile, even though at first glance things might look robust. We need to think and plan carefully if we are to understand the forces at work determining our planetary fate. Against this planetary agenda, we can read the ideas of Jesus in terms of the power of meekness as a way to respond to the power of evil.
Jesus says in the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 that in the global clash between good and evil, victory will go to those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, visit prisoners and welcome strangers. These works of mercy provide a definition of meekness as the moral understanding that what we do to the least of the world we do to Jesus Christ. This old parable of the saved and the damned is not a story of supernatural magic but a deep prophetic analysis of our evolutionary situation today.
How can being meek be an adaptive evolutionary trait? In evolution, we can look at traits in the animal kingdom to see how they might apply in human culture. The opposite of being meek is dominating and controlling. In nature, any organism that has a dominant role is an apex predator. Everything else must meekly submit to its fate, relying on its natural abundance to prosper in the ecological system. Generally only a small number of apex carnivores are sustained by a large number of herbivores, who in turn rely on abundant plant food which depends on the microbes forming healthy soil and stable climate, and similarly for the food chain in the ocean. The predator can only flourish when the whole food chain is healthy and productive.
The evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest does not at all refer to the strongest physically, but favours creatures which are best adapted to their niche. Natural selection favours the genes that are stable, durable and fecund. In terms of cultural evolution, this natural law has a long term power, including through our ability to see love and compassion as adaptive traits.
Evolution points to a human path of cooperation rather than competition as the main condition for success in our global civilization. Human adaptation requires that we harness intelligence as our primary selective advantage, overcoming the dangers of a world run by dumb instinct. This triumph of intelligence over instinct is a key to understanding what Jesus meant by saying the meek will inherit the earth.
For cultural values, who are the meek? Those with the humility to adapt to the world as they find it. Those with the detachment to avoid being ensnared by ideological delusion. Those who do not try to force false beliefs onto others in order to control the world through the power of money and weapons and ideology.
What does this say about the story of Jesus? The long term vision in the Bible presents a story of human fall from grace, and then Jesus showing the way to transform our culture to achieve redemption. Jesus is portrayed as coming at the bottom of the cycle of grace and depravity, representing the spirit of truth in a world ruled by lies.
The resurrection shows the vision of grace and love gaining victory over the instinctive impulses of control represented by the cross. The inheritance of the meek is about the victory of a messianic faith as a basis of planetary salvation, as distinct from the traditional Christian focus on the power of the church.
We tend to imagine that victory goes to the strongest, not to the meek. The Bible reverses this assumption by setting spiritual vision above the power of instinct. Jesus tells us the least of the world will be first in the kingdom of God, with the metaphor that the stone the builder refused will be the keystone of the bridge. The meek are like the stone that the builders ignore, the ones who do not conform to the superficial patterns of worldly success, but who seek integrity and honesty, aiming to achieve results through respect and dialogue, not through domination.
Jesus’s vision of how we can inherit the earth is summed up in his statement in Matthew 25 that what we do to the least of the world we do to him. His statement that we are saved by works of mercy for the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, sick, naked and strangers tells us the values of the world are the opposite of the values of God. The values of God are the practices that are sustainable, that will deliver long term stability and prosperity to human societies, clashing with the instinctive desires for power and control.
Transition to the values of Jesus Christ involves a paradigm shift for our global culture. The story of climate change shows we are on a trajectory towards destruction. Even looking at the Paris Accord, there is no globally agreed vision of how to avoid dangerous warming that could turn our planet into a hothouse. It is possible to turn that trajectory around, but the shift has to understand evolutionary process. Evolution in a stable system builds incrementally on precedent, and in culture that means defining a theory of change that can transform our current world into a sustainable global culture.
The Biblical value of meekness is confronting for the dominant values of the world. Nations and companies cannot deliver stability and prosperity by meekly giving in to every pressure they face. Nor can these goals be achieved by arrogantly ignoring the real pressures at work.
Competition is central to human life, and is recognised in the parable of the talents, also in Matthew 25, with its vision that the works of mercy of the Kingdom of God can only be paid for through the abundance created by everyone using their skills to the full, including by taking risks rather than the safe course. We should not meekly bury our talents in the ground or hide our light under a bushel, but work in the world to develop a vision of transformation.
The model of the meek inheriting the earth is speaking about a long-term transformation of human values. Saying the meek shall inherit the earth is not calling for a revolution to a communist or anarchistic society, but rather an evolutionary vision of a gradual transition to an ethical vision of the values of the kingdom of God, understood in a practical and scientific way as central to our ongoing life on earth, as we transform our communities to make earth as in heaven, seeing the vision of Christ in the Bible as our moral guide.

Robert Tulip

Talk given at Kippax Konnex Retreat, 15 September 2018

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Commentary on Carl Jung’s Answer to Job

The Canberra Jung Society has uploaded the draft essay I used for my talk on Jung’s book Answer To Job on 6 July, as well as recordings of the talk and of the question and answer session.

The link above is to the Society’s home page. Direct link to the talk is here. I will revise this paper for publication in the Canberra Jung Society Journal.

Here is the diagram mentioned in the essay, providing an astronomical framework for mythology.
Orbital Drivers of Mythology and Cultural Evolution

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Platonic Christianity

Platonic Christianity
The text below is from an essay I wrote on The Precessional Structure of Time. PDF with diagrams is at Platonic Christianity.

Platonic Origins of The Christ Precession Story
The precessional model indicates that orthodox Christianity evolved from philosophical ideas about Jesus that have only survived in coded fugitive traces in the Bible. These ideas most plausibly arose from Gnostic Platonic schools. The Christ Precession hypothesis sees Christian origins in Gnostic philosophy and cosmology, syncretising Greek philosophy with Judaism. This syncretic vision defined Jesus Christ as the turning point of time, the beginning and end of successive zodiac ages, in a messianic theory to explain a terrestrial reflection of the observed heavenly movement of the equinox point from Aries to Pisces. This zodiac interpretation is not compatible with literal Christian orthodoxy about Jesus of Nazareth as a real historical person, and instead sees these stories as symbolic parables of hidden wisdom.
Given how astrology is despised and rejected, any effort to discuss such a framework remains a highly controversial and misunderstood reading among both religious and secular scholars. Esoteric Christian traditions were suppressed as heresy due to their incompatibility with literal myths about Jesus. Throne and altar entered a longstanding alliance under Christendom, requiring compliance, control and conformity, as part of the security apparatus of western empires, integrating church and state as a single power system with a single dogma. Such uniformity of belief had no place for the heterodox mystery traditions involved in seeing astronomical messages embedded in the Gospels.
It can be shocking to encounter advocacy for such a perspective that is so different from traditional interpretations, so I seek the reader’s patience in working through the claim that a Platonic Gnostic cosmology based on observation of precession had primary responsibility for the origins of Christianity. The broad problems of Christendom theology with its simplistic myths of salvation through belief have been analysed from a range of angles. Modern scholars have discovered a range of contradictions and factual errors in the literal text of the Bible, a process of criticism that has expanded to a broad public suspicion of the church and of theology as an intellectual field. It is a hard question how Christianity could recover credibility given its broad disrepute for placing political stability and institutional loyalty above the human liberation and solidarity advocated by Christ in the Gospels. This recognition that Jesus Christ was fictional provides a simple and elegant way to resolve the numerous factual anomalies that surround the old paradigm of literal faith.
As we move now into a new age, the Age of Aquarius, the dogmatic limits of the former age need no longer apply. The story of precession enables us to analyse Christian myths in a new light. The core Gnostic observation is that the imaginative placement of Jesus Christ at the dawn of the Age of Pisces reflected his avatar role for the earliest Gnostic Christian Platonists, defining the turning point of time from BC to AD, the alpha and omega or first and last. This messianic myth of salvation reflected ancient knowledge of precession as the structure of time, as something that astronomer-priests could see and predict for centuries beforehand in a purely scientific way, and use as a basis for the idea that events on earth reflect events in heaven. The placement of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius is equally something that could readily have been imagined by the authors of the Gospels, with the idea that the world of their day was not ready to engage with the ideas of Christ, which would take a full age to become accessible. The Gospel authors could see that the spirit of truth had to percolate through the world for the whole Age of Pisces before it could be understood, as reflected in Matthew 24:14 “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
An excellent piece of evidence for how the precession hypothesis shows natural cosmology was used and then suppressed in the origins of Christianity is the major Christian symbol the Chi Rho Cross. There is a clear correlation between the Chi Rho Cross and the precessional hypothesis of the original Christ story, explaining the use of astronomical observation of the slow shift of the heavens as the foundational structure of Christian myth. The arms of the Greek letter Chi (X : χ) match exactly to the observable heavenly circles formed by the path of the sun and the equator. The Rho (P : ρ) matches the line of stars in the first fish of Pisces, the symbolic point of the new Zodiac Age started by Christ.
A Chi Rho Cross formed in the sky in 21 AD as these calculated celestial circles moved into Pisces is shown in this star map. Ancient astronomer-priests could have predicted this precession timing for centuries beforehand to within a decade, giving reason to suggest the prophecy of the advent of Christ in Daniel 9 could have reflected a combination of Jewish messianism with Babylonian and Greek astronomy. The location of the imaginary cross in the sky between the constellations of Aries and Pisces is at the triple intersection point ‘anointed by the lamb’ as depicted with the traditional zodiac figures, indicated by the pointing hoof of the Aries ram. The location, timing, purpose and method are entirely possible, simple and explanatory for the ancient astronomer-priests and philosophers who invented the original framework that became Christianity.
This star myth at the origin of Christianity, matching directly to the primary chi-rho symbol, is compelling and simple as an explanation of how Jesus was imagined as connecting time to eternity, humanity to divinity, and earth to the heavens. This hypothesis sets Christ in the heavens in a comparable way to how other constellations are associated with mythological figures, like Hercules and Andromeda, suggesting this source code was suppressed for the political reason of its clash with literal faith. This placement of Christ in the stars differs from the conventional constellations in that it reflects a dynamic moving analysis, placing the shape at a specific moment in time using complex astronomical calculations of precession, rather than a static depiction based on a star group alone.
Despite the complexity, this knowledge of precession was fully available to ancient astronomers. This star story explains this core symbol of the chi rho cross, based on Plato’s cosmology, as the basis for Christianity placing Christ on earth as in heaven. It is an example of the widespread ancient practice of telling stories about the stars, in this case using the motion of the point where the sun begins the natural year, a physical location in the sky that also relates to Jesus Christ through solar metaphors like Jesus as the light of the world (John 8:12) and the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2).
Big questions for this chi-rho star correlation as a symbol for precession include why nobody in modern times has noticed or discussed it, and what it could mean for us today. The ancient suppression of this Gnostic symbol accords with the overall precession hypothesis I have presented here. A simple literal surface reading of the Bible won out over any allegorical interpretation that would cast doubt on the true existence of Jesus of Nazareth. The apparent centrality of the cosmology of precession as defining the timing and nature of the advent of Christ made this entire type of discussion a heretical taboo and capital crime, to be expunged from all records by imperial edict.
To reconstruct the most plausible account of how Christianity actually evolved requires a reverse engineering of the surviving texts using the stars as a blueprint. The consistency of the precession hypothesis with Platonic philosophy, in method, motive and opportunity, provides strong supportive evidence. Early Hellenistic Platonism was involved in creating Serapism in Egypt, Christianity in Israel and Mithraism in Babylon. Of these three competing memes, Christianity won the evolutionary struggle, and incorporated features of Serapism and Mithraism in the Constantinian settlement defining literal faith for Christendom half a millennium later. The original Christianity was a Platonic Gnostic mystery secret wisdom cosmic philosophy for initiates, constructing Jesus Christ as imaginative fiction, but this enlightened vision was taken over and corrupted by the literalist church. Therefore, recognition that Christ was a precessional myth represents a return to the original high pure form of Christianity.
Plato‘s dialogue The Timaeus describes the creation of the World Soul in a way that aligns with the hypothesis that Christian Gnostic theology was grounded in observation of precession and evolved from Platonist philosophy. Plato describes observable planetary reality on the model of the letter chi, in a camouflaged explanation of the precession of the equinox, with the structure of reality presented as two circles joined together. This is traditionally read as an accurate coded description of the celestial equator and the path of the sun. Plato called these two great celestial circles ‘the same’ and ‘the different’, appearing to reflect how the stars are always the same but they shift around the seasons by precession. The equinox points are the locations of the two opposite intersections between the path of the sun and the celestial equator. Attribution of hidden knowledge of precession to Plato is why the Great Year is called the Platonic Year, and the Zodiac Age is called the Platonic Month.
The power of this celestial cross image in Western culture is shown by Dante’s references in The Divine Comedy to the ‘love that moves the sun and stars’ as represented by ‘four circles with three crosses’. This cryptic coded description of an X in the sky is like the heavenly X that Emperor Constantine allegedly invoked to establish Christendom in the Fourth Century AD, with the famous phrase ‘in this sign you will conquer’.
The Biblical blind beggar ‘Son of Timaeus’ whose sight Jesus miraculously restores serves by this interpretation as a parable for how the world had become blind to the deep truths of astronomy explained by Plato in Timaeus, and how initiation into the secret wisdom of Christ could restore this vision under the guidance of Gnostic philosopher kings. The blindness includes inability to see the real meaning of the chi-rho cross, which extends Plato’s visual cosmology of the world soul to describe the incarnation of Jesus Christ, presenting a coded map of the equinox stars at the alpha and omega moment when the spring point crossed into Pisces.
My calculation, using the astronomy software SkyGazer 4.5, is that the equinox crossed the line connecting the stars of Pisces in 21 AD. This ‘alpha-omega moment’, in Christian terms the union of first and last, illustrates why the alpha and omega letters appear in the Chi-Rho Cross symbol as shown in the star map above, and why Christianity said the advent of Jesus Christ occurred under Pilate, at the exact time the equinox crossed into the new constellation marking the new age. This hidden celestial meaning was that Jesus as the ‘ρ’ or rho of the chi-rho symbolises the first fish of Pisces, while the chi or χ symbolises the slowly precessing intersection of the path of the sun and the celestial equator.
The concealment of ancient teachings on precession is understandable, given the repressive context of the Roman Empire. Any such discussion, presenting Jesus Christ as a necessary product of visual astronomical reasoning, would have been initially concealed by its Platonic advocates as a secret mystery, in line with their objective of growing the Christian movement by presenting the general public with highly simplified teachings and reserving more complex ideas for initiates. Then, as the literal Gospel story became more popular, the original Gnostic ideas were suppressed as heresy by the fallen world of Christendom. The Roman Empire, once it made Christianity the state religion, made any questioning of dogma or possession of heretical literature a capital crime as part of its incorporation of the literal gospels into its security and stability doctrine from the settlement of Constantine in the fourth century. This intimidating literal approach to faith remained the dominant social paradigm of western Christendom for over a thousand years, systematically suppressing and destroying alternative visions, and only starting to break down with the modern scientific enlightenment.
Based on these observations, the most plausible theory of Christian origins is that Jesus Christ was an entirely fictional invention produced by syncretism between Judaism, Platonic philosophy and other older religions. The core idea from Plato was that good philosophers should rule the world. As Hellenistic culture emerged to rule Israel and Egypt after Alexander’s conquests in the fourth century BC, the Greeks first invented Serapis, a Greco-Egyptian proto-Christ figure designed to enable cultural interaction between Greeks and Egyptians, pictured here in an ancient image surrounded by the signs of the zodiac.
Greek philosophy also co-invented the religion of Mithraism, a Hellenised version of Persian Sun God worship. In the iconic Mithras image of the Tauroctony, slaying the bull, Mithras is accompanied by the constellations of the celestial equator and surrounded by the signs of the zodiac, the sun and moon and the symbols of the rising and falling equinoxes, as shown in this reconstruction.
Mithraism appears to have focussed specifically on precession with its Time God, Aion, depicted with the head of a lion, body of a man and wings of an eagle, surrounded by six coils of a snake. The globe that Aion is standing on is often depicted with the X of the chi cross to show the precession of the equinox. The placement of the snake’s head at the lion’s forehead matches the point of the end of six ages at the dawn of the Aquarius/Leo Age. Unfortunately, almost all Mithraic writing is lost, so direct ancient explanation of these symbols is not possible. Carl Jung’s book Aion recognises this Mithraic heritage in exploring the link between Christ and the Age of Pisces.
My hypothesis of how these cosmic ideas found their way into Christianity is that the Jewish Old Testament prophetic tradition of hope for an Anointed Saviour (a ‘Christ Jesus’ in Greek) was combined with the Serapis and Mithras inventions to produce Jesus Christ, the anointed saviour of the world. Based on the calculation of precession by the renowned ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus and possibly other earlier writers, the timing of the incarnation of Christ under Pilate was a necessary product of the astronomical vision of the turning of the ages of the zodiac.
The Gospels can be understood as a product of the Platonic doctrine of the Noble Lie. Plato said in The Republic that philosopher kings could rule the world by presenting the masses with fictional stories dressed up as fact. His example of the Noble Lie specifically drew from the old myth of the descent from a Golden Age into an Iron Age. Platonic philosophers after Alexander’s conquests could have first helped to construct the myth of Serapis, the Greco-Egyptian synthesis of Zeus and Osiris, and then added Jewish prophecy and Babylonian cosmology into the Serapis myth to invent Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel of Mark, together with themes from Homer’s Odyssey, timed to match the zodiac age.
This process could only have occurred in secret, within Gnostic mystery societies, in keeping with Plato’s Noble Lie agenda, aiming to use the Gospels to initiate newcomers into a secret mystery philosophy religion, in line with the traditional secrecy of such groups. However, the political context was that the Roman Empire was unwilling to allow secret philosopher kings. The church and state completely suppressed and distorted the actual Gnostic origins of Christianity, condemning all such discussion as heresy. Working with the empire in a successful alliance of altar and throne, the church replaced its original Gnostic Christian philosophy with the literal orthodox dogmas that achieved such enduring support throughout Christendom. So, we have an origin of Christianity in high philosophy, as a new paradigm of history completely at odds with received opinion.
Extensive similarities between the Gospels and the works of Homer support this Platonic Gnostic hypothesis. Studies by Dennis R. MacDonald, including The Gospels and Homer (2014), show how the Gospels drew on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. This demonstration of Greek sourcing helps also to place the Gospels in the old secret oral tradition of knowledge as the source of power described in The Memory Code, a tradition that was overwhelmed by the structures of civilization.
The hypothesis of a Platonic Gnostic precessional origin for the Gospels coheres with the Christian idea of cosmic reason or ‘logos’ incarnating in the world as Jesus Christ. The theme of logos as embodied reason in Christ is a focus of Christian theology, and draws from the Greek Pre-Socratic philosophy tradition of logos as the eternal unifying word of the cosmos. The Old Testament prophet Amos says at 4:13 that Christ is the mind of God causing the cycle of day into night. In the New Testament, John 1 describes logos as the word made flesh, and the Pauline Letter to the Colossians says through Christ all things hold together. Rev 15:3 calls Christ the King of Ages. Such ideas present God as cosmic order, manifest on earth in the person of Christ.
This Christology of Christ as pre-existent Cosmic Reason coheres directly with ancient knowledge of precession of the equinoxes in a highly consistent and explanatory way, premised on Christ as allegory for the sun and seeing precession as an eternal astronomical logic. The ancient unity of astronomy and religion was organised by the hermetic principle of the Lord’s Prayer ‘on earth as in heaven’. This vision of history as reflecting the stars explains the motive for seeing the slow movement of the solar equinox point against the stars as the basis for mythological prediction. This hypothesis provides a simple and elegant explanation of Christian origins, and a sufficient basis for a scientific approach to Christian faith. The Gospel of Mark set the incarnation of Christ in the time of Pilate in order to accord with the visual observation of the stellar precession of the position of the sun at the start of the solar year into Pisces.
Cosmic reason appears as a key theme in Plato’s Republic in his allegory of the sun as the symbol of logic. Socrates calls the sun the “child of goodness”, proposing that just as the sun illuminates, bestowing the ability to see and be seen, so the idea of goodness illumines the intelligible with truth. There are many points at which Jesus Christ serves as a similar logical analogy for the sun, for example in John’s ideas that Jesus is the source of light and life, and in the passion story of dying and rising as metaphor for the solar cycles of the day and the year. There are therefore strong grounds to see Mark’s Gospel as a practical product of the agenda presented by Plato in The Republic, constructing a new coherent myth of the world-soul based on precession, aiming to gain mass appeal in order to enable philosophers to rule the world.
If Christianity originated in Platonism in this secret solar symbolism, then the entire traditional framework of the growth of the early church from a man called Jesus of Nazareth is revealed as symbolic fiction, as an imaginative answer to the question of what the messiah would have done if he had actually lived, and of how messianic images can be presented in human terms. The Gospels indicate this hidden symbolic agenda when they state that everything Jesus says to the public is a parable while ‘the secrets of the kingdom’ are reserved for initiates.
A principal anomaly in the paradigm of literal Christianity is that the town of Nazareth did not exist until well after the time of Pilate, as far as reliable archaeology can show, as documented by Rene Salm. Drawing from the hypothesis that Jesus was invented, the most plausible reason for Mark to say Jesus came from Nazareth is as political cover for the Nazarene and Nazirite Gnostic sects in Israel who were under pressure from Rome for sedition. Saying Nazarene meant “from Nazareth” rather than “member of the Nazarenes” could have provided an effective deflection when persecutors sought to suppress the early secret society that later became the Christian church.
Mark’s descriptions of Jesus as the Nazarene make no sense if they mean one from Nazareth. For example at Mark 14:67 a servant girl says Peter was with the Nazarene, but such language was completely unknown at that time as meaning a person from Nazareth, which was not mentioned as a town in any lists from Galilee until centuries later. Similarly, the angel in the tomb at Mark 16:6 calls Jesus the Nazarene, implying a far broader meaning than a person from an unknown hamlet. The description at Luke 4:16 of a synagogue at Nazareth is completely impossible.
The fictional origin of Jesus means that Gnostic imagination preceded orthodox literal faith as the basis of the story, reversing the popular assumption that the orthodox gospel ideas came before any Gnostic movement. The original Christian ideas were Gnostic, grounded in the integration of Greek philosophy and astronomy with Jewish prophecy and other traditions. The orthodox belief in the literal truth of the Gospels therefore only emerged as a corrupted political degeneration of a high Gnostic philosophy that was suppressed, forgotten, ignored and denied. The Gnostic origin of Christianity is what the Gospels and Psalms call the stone the builder rejected that will become the cornerstone, and what Isaiah 53 called the despised and rejected man of sorrows.
An implication of this hidden Platonic Gnostic origin for the Gospels is that writings now seen as representing Gnostic thought are only a shadow of the original high tradition that produced the Gospels and was then destroyed. The Platonic secret mystery philosophy was transmitted only from mouth to ear, with the written text serving as prompter and camouflage for the oral instruction. This traditional secret method of transmission of sacred knowledge is abundantly documented in other initiatory traditions. The secrecy proved almost completely vulnerable when attacked by a suppressing state religion armed with pen and sword.
The existence and nature of such an ancient precessional cosmology at the centre of Christian origins can be extracted from the surviving documents of the New Testament, explaining the most plausible way these texts could have come into existence. The Platonic theme of God as the orderly nature of the cosmos revealed in precession is the best explanation of the traces of the introductory ideas in the Gospels. We can only begin to understand how knowledge of precession influenced ancient culture by recognising the coherence of the argument that Jesus Christ was invented as a symbolic anointed messiah and avatar of the Age of Pisces.
If Jesus was in fact a fictional invention, then the general belief that he was a real person is a primary example of the susceptibility of human psychology to persuasive suggestion on a mass scale. This precessional interpretation is a way to help reform Christianity to be more honest and evidence-based, aiming for a coherent account of what the founders meant by seeing Jesus as representing God in the world. Part of the problem of cultural change described as the fall from grace into corruption includes how popular thought can be swayed by comforting delusional memes, with the pervasive willingness to believe myths such as the historical existence of Jesus Christ.
The precession code behind the Gospels and the Apocalypse appears to have been almost entirely lost from view, apart from concealed knowledge among artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, as discussed below. The principle that the Bible encodes a deeper truth of cosmic order was also glimpsed by adherents of literal Christianity, but acceptance of dogmatic faith diverted writers such as Sir Isaac Newton from seeing the symbolic intent and meaning. The scale of paradigm shift in recognising that the Gospels are fiction while seeing their original high message is immense.
The explicit evolution of Christianity to meet contemporary needs now requires open discussion about the possibility that the Gospels are entirely fictional, as a basis for a new reformation of Christian faith to cohere with reason. This hypothesis that Jesus was invented as a precessional myth labours under heavy social taboos, especially regarding the core role of ancient astrology in defining the identity of Christ as an idealised human reflection of the movement of the stars. Such ideas are shocking and unbelievable to those who have grown up into Christian belief. These ideas have few avenues for open discussion. Yet this recognition of the primacy of symbolic meaning provides the most compelling and elegant scientific hypothesis of the truth of Christian origins, part of the transformative new paradigm built around precession of the equinox.
Robert Tulip

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The Precessional Structure of Time

In this essay, I seek to explain the connection between astronomy and mythology as the basis for a new paradigm.

Table of Contents
Overview 1
The Physics of Precession 2
Precession and Climate 3
Earth and the Solar System 6
Zodiac Ages 6
Precession, Gas Giant Planets and The Solar System Centre of Mass 7
Fourier Transform Decomposition of Solar System Barycentre Wave Function 11
The House of the Age 12
Thematic Principle of the New Age of Aquarius 13
Dynamic Structure of The Age of Pisces 14
Precession and Evolution 15
Precession in Myth and Culture 15
Precession and Man-Made Climate Change 17
Precession and Christianity 18
Indian Sources of Western Precession Myth 20
Platonic Origins of The Christ Precession Story 22
Precession Encoded in Art: Leonardo’s Last Supper 29
The Age of Aquarius 31

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Lecture on Aion by Carl Jung

Link to text R Tulip Lecture to the Canberra Jung Society on the book Aion by Carl Jung 5 May 2017

Opening Paragraphs

Aion – Toward a Gnostic Reformation
Robert Tulip
Canberra Jung Society, 5 May 2017
In his book Aion – Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, Carl Jung analysed archetypes of the collective unconscious against the identity of Jesus Christ as a model of psychological wholeness, providing ideas about cultural transformation into a New Age. Building upon Christian traditions, Jung reinterpreted the Christ story through astronomy, examining how images of Jesus provide symbolic reflection of slow changes in the visible stars, with a focus on the archetype of the fish. Jung applied the old hermetic idea from the Lord’s Prayer, ‘on earth as in heaven’, to explore how Jesus symbolises eternal truths, aiming to develop a scientific psychology of religion rather than accepting any claims from traditional dogma. My reading of Aion is that Jung’s symbolic cosmology presents a pathway to a Gnostic Reformation of Christianity, pointing to a paradigm shift that uses knowledge to reconcile religion with logic and evidence. Aion investigates a radically different interpretation of Christian historical origins as primarily Gnostic and cosmological.
An archetype is a pattern with strong symbolic meaning in human life. Archetypes can include common patterns of character, action, situation and art. The universal symbols emerging in archetypes are not generally understood, and can exercise social power through popular resonance in concealed unconscious ways. In Aion, Jung applied methods of analytical psychology to uncover hidden meanings in powerful collective symbols of Christian religion, aiming to bring unconscious spiritual tendencies and energies out of the irrational realms of mythology and into conscious awareness. As an exercise in the philosophy of culture, Jung studied how widely shared experiences manifest in enduring rich archetypal forms of expression.
Aion explored “the myths that underlie Christianity and the whole of mythology as the expression of a universal disposition in humanity”. Jung saw symbolic archetypes of Christian faith, such as the Christian fish, the snake, the cross and the stone, as “complex thought-forms which [are] unconscious organizers of our ideas.” For Jung, archetypes and the collective unconscious come together in the person of Jesus Christ as “an ever-present archetype of wholeness”. As he explained in the Foreword, “the archetypal image of wholeness, which appears so frequently in the products of the unconscious, has forerunners identified very early with the figure of Christ.”

Discussion and further links https://www.booktalk.org/post162590.html

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River of Life

This sermon on the River of Life I delivered at Kippax Uniting Church on 24 September 2017, explaining how the River of Life in the Bible is a metaphor for the sun.

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