CRUEL TO CRUELER- MEANIES "R" US
In an unusual interview, archaeologist, historian and mythologist Acharya S, author of the controversial books The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold and Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, offers a rare glimpse into her childhood and Christian background, sharing what led her to her life's work and providing a provocative commentary on the past and present, as well as a hope for the future. Storm Fox of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania asks pertinent and refreshing questions of this irreverent and forward-thinking woman of the 21st century.
Storm Fox: Were you brought up in a religious/spiritual family, or was your early life more skeptical?
Acharya S: I was raised in a religiously liberal family. My mother was an active member of her Congregational church. However, Northeastern Congregationalists are very classy and don't go around preaching. There was no talk about God, the Bible, Jesus; no biblical quotes, no threats or chastisement based on "God's Word," etc. Nothing. We celebrated Christmas and Easter, but these holidays were about community, family, love. I don't know if anyone in the family really believed the biblical malarkey. My only interest in Sunday school was the story in Luke of the short man who climbs a tree to see Jesus over the crowd. As a little kid, I could relate, as I was always standing on tip-toe to see. Otherwise, Sunday school was torture, but church was even worse. What a bore! But, I went, every week, until I was 12, when I declared myself autonomous in the matter of religion. My siblings did basically the same thing. Now, imagine such a rebellion from something so mild! If we'd been fundamentalists, I would have run away from home! I did go back to church a few more times, sang a duet with my choir-director mother, which was her dream. Over the years, as an archaeologist and simply out of curiosity, I went into many churches, as well as a few synagogues and, of course, the ruins of countless pagan temples.
SF: There is some information on your website that hints to you being "born again" at some point in your life. What were the circumstances surrounding that conversion?
AS: In retrospect, the story is pretty funny. I actually went through a brief period where I tried on that born-again Christian hair shirt. It was horrible! Worse than what I'd been experiencing just before, which was a sort of "post-college" depression. I was living in Manhattan, somewhat rudderless, after spending a year of post-graduate studies in Greece. Trying to make it in NYC is very difficult for most people, and I wasn't having the easiest time of it. Through a modeling agency there I met a woman - Jimmy Swaggart's cousin - who was leading a "Bible-study" group. I joined mostly because I wanted to know more biblical passages for crossword puzzles. As it turned out, I seemed to know more about the Bible than she did, but she was great at weeping over Jesus. So great, in fact, that she would put on shows, just like Swaggart. Anyway, we went to a tent revival with a Greek minister in the Bronx, and at the high point, with her prodding me, I stood up and declared myself born again. I liked the minister but I wasn't about to get dunked in their little pool. A couple of weeks later, it was clear that the born-again business was something no sane person could possibly uphold for any length of time without becoming cuckoo. As the great freethinker Robert Ingersoll said, "If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would strictly follow the teachings of the New, he would be insane."
SF: What symbolic significance did Jesus and Christianity have to you then?
AS: Oh, there were a few goofy moments where I became emotional - such as accepting Jesus "into my heart" - but nothing much to write home about. Since I had been raised a Christian, and had rejected Christianity as being no more true or important than the rest of the world's religions and mythologies, I can't say that the faith ever had any profound meaning to me. I remember being utterly repulsed by Christianity in college and post-graduate school, when I spent a great deal of time in Greek Orthodox Churches, where just about every neurosis and psychosis is manifested. By "psychosis" I refer to the monasteries, where everyone is seriously repressed and there are images of horrible tortures painted on the walls. What kind of "spiritual" environment is that?
SF: What did being a Christian mean to you?
AS: As a youth it simply meant that we went to church. In college, I wondered aloud to a roommate if I were a Christian, at which point he asked, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" I responded that I guessed I did, so he stated, "Then you're a Christian." Seemed pretty simple, but I never really bought it. I had studied so many religions and mythologies even by then, because of my interest in history and antiquity, that I considered Christianity just one of the many. In truth, even as a child I didn't believe most of the Jesus stories, as they were no more convincing than the tales of the Greek or Roman gods, which were universally pronounced as myths.
SF: What led you to conclude that Jesus Christ was a purely mythical figure?
AS: For some time I was an "evemerist," which means that I believed there was a historical Jesus but that the supernatural tales associated with him were just fairytales added to his biography by enthusiastic followers. Or, perhaps, he was a yogi in the Eastern tradition who could do some sort of "magic" or siddhis, as these "tricks" are called in India. Because I had been studying Eastern religions intensely at the time, in my late 20's, the yogi perspective was the last I held before I came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ, as depicted in the biblical, gospel tale, was a myth through and through. I began to get an inkling of the "Mythicist School," as it is called, about that time. My recollection is that a book virtually jumped off the shelf and set me on the path: It was Forgery in Christianity by Joseph Wheless. From there, as they say, the rest is history - or mythology, as the case may be. I followed Wheless's clues and sources, and discovered a whole school of thought - a very intelligent and profound school of thought that essentially verified nagging doubts I'd had since I first heard about Jesus Christ. With my background in mythology, it was not very difficult to see through the historical pretense associated with Christianity. If one set of beliefs with incredible supernatural events is easily regarded as mythology, why not another?
SF: The arguments you give for mythicism in your books and articles are very powerful, and I find the astrotheological aspects of your books and articles to be especially fascinating. I'm curious as to when and under what circumstances you became aware of these patterns in myths and how ubiquitous they are.
AS: Naturally, the more time one spends on a subject the more one learns. I suppose that as I came to understand the awe with which the ancients viewed the cosmos, the natural world, the earth in general, I had "aha!" moments or epiphanies in connecting the gods with the planetary bodies and constellations, etc. In reality, it didn't take much, because I have always been awed by nature and spent most of my childhood romping and splashing through the woods, fields, streams and lakes. I imagine that the night sky appears a most amazing sight to anyone sitting under it away from an urban environment. The sun, of course, is a major reason we exist. Knowing these facts, it becomes quite comprehensible why the ancients - as well as a significant portion of the world to this day - would revere these natural objects and forces, attributing divine qualities to them. These aspects of the natural world are found globally, which is why they are ubiquitous in human mythologies. In the end, it all makes sense.
SF: There has been little written from the mythicist perspective in the past few decades, but at various periods in the past, there was a wealth of mythicist writing and research. To what social forces do you attribute this?
AS: At the end of the 18th century in Europe there seemed to be a shift in consciousness, away from the repressive mind-control of the Church, whether Protestant or Catholic. Some of this change appears to have come from the expansion of the British into India. I suppose people were utterly sick of the atrocities committed by Christian authorities, and no doubt the insidious mind-control and censorship had taken its toll on the erudite and intelligentsia. The 19th century experienced an explosion in brilliant thinking in countless subjects, not just religion and philosophy. The writing of the era - again, in numerous subjects - was superb, especially compared to that of today. In fact, one thing that has not improved with time and technology is the quality of writing. In the English language, little compares to what was produced during the 19th century.
The 20th century, on the other hand, experienced a profound dumbing-down, especially in the areas of freethought, philosophy and religion. There are many social forces I would attribute to this frightening and depressing dumbing-down of the masses. For sure, much of it has been deliberate, in order that the political and religious status quo could be maintained. After all, we can't have people thinking for themselves, can we? Religion and politics have been the main tools used to control the masses for the benefit of the elite. What we saw during the 18th and 19th centuries were members of the elite themselves coming forward and forcefully speaking the truth. I will say that, because of the Internet, many people are becoming more politically savvy - possibly more than before. And, perhaps, we will see an increase in people thinking for themselves about the important matters of religion and philosophy. They simply must, or the mass, herd mentality will destroy this planet.
SF: How do you think history will remember Christianity?
AS: I can only say that I think I see what will happen - and hope that it is true. For many years now, since I was a teenager, I figured that Christianity and the other monolithic religions would fizzle into nothingness, would lose their hold over the human mind, and be replaced by true enlightenment that needs no organization of the sort that has been so destructive in the past. I do believe that Christianity will be viewed in the future - if a future there be - as a destructive interloper that disconnected humanity from its natural world and caused tremendous turmoil. As prejudiced as the Christian ideology has been against the so-called Pagan world, that's at least as badly as the future populace will view Christianity. In other words, Christianity is the Paganism of the future, or vice versa. In any event, it will be realized that the "faith" is a terrible hoax played upon the masses in order to make them believe that the Almighty power behind the cosmos was a particular person of a particular ethnicity during a particular period, to the exclusion of all other cultures, eras and individuals.
SF: You seem to rail against evemerism about as strongly as you do against literalist interpretations of the Bible. What trouble do you think evemerism causes?
AS: Again, evemerism is the perspective that, behind all the fabulous fairytales, there was a "real person" named Jesus who lived about the same time as depicted in the gospel tale. But, according to evemerism, he didn't do much, because if you take away all the fairytales there isn't much left - at least nothing impressive. Some shaggy guy wearing a robe wandering around spouting platitudes and, maybe, doing a few parlor tricks. Gee, like that's never happened before - or since! Does anyone honestly believe that the Romans would overthrow their entire culture, with all its gods, including the Caesar himself, in order to worship a ragamuffin magician from the reviled backwaters of the Roman Empire? It's just incredible! No self-respecting, elitist Roman would consider the thought for a second. He would have laughed his head off at the very notion. There had to be some highly powerful motivation for the Romans to acquiesce to this fable that the God of the cosmos had appeared - completely unbeknownst to them - decades before in the outback, as a member of one of the most despised races of the empire.
The addition of fairytales would hardly have been enough to impress the Romans, even if there really had been "some guy there," as is believed within evemerism. Evemerism simply doesn't go far enough in an honest investigation. It's a cop-out by people who want to appear somewhat intelligent - in other words, not entirely gullible - but who haven't really studied the issue to know that there is no evidence of this wandering Jewish guru who stood out not because of any magic tricks but because of profound or revolutionary ideas and statements. None of these "profound statements" is original - much more wisdom can be found in the more ancient Egyptian and Indian texts. I find this concept irritating as well because, while this purported "groovy guru" gets all the attention - and much sympathy because of his supposed suffering - countless real people the world over have demonstrated breathtaking brilliance and suffered much more, yet have received no attention whatsoever.
SF: I devoured The Christ Conspiracy, loved it, and found it to be very liberating. Unfortunately, it was attacked a great deal online, and for some rather strange reasons. Suns of God seems in part to be an answer to those criticisms. Was this your intent with Suns of God?
AS: Thanks! Christ Con was also hailed online, as well as elsewhere. There are more than a few professors, theologians, priests and ministers who are closet fans. I don't really care about what the few harpies have cackled online. As Abraham Lincoln said about his opponents, "But I also remember that though they blazed like tallow candles…, at last they flickered in the socket, died out, stank in the dark for a brief season, and were remembered no more, even by the smell..." Perhaps that's harsh, but, truly, these people have accomplished nothing. I am certain that, in the same manner that Osiris, Thor and Hercules have been relegated to the heap of mythology, so too will Christ. Yes, Suns of God is an answer to the criticisms of Christ Conspiracy. These criticisms were so shallow and petulant that it was easy to produce hundreds upon hundreds of pages showing where they were wrong - the evidence disproving them was abundant. I had to shorten my book, of course, but there is much more material to demonstrate that in general the major concepts I have presented are accurate and correct. I also worked extremely hard in getting Suns of God done - through unbelievable adversity that is material for another book - so that those who were impressed and convinced by The Christ Conspiracy would not be left hanging with these shallow and ignorant criticisms.
SF: Some have criticized your use of sources such as Blavatsky. What do you think such controversial sources add to your work?
AS: A completely asinine criticism that shows the level of the rest of their harping. I used and/or quote Blavatsky a total, I believe, of three times out of over 1,000 citations. And what miniscule amount I utilized of hers was factual and accurate, having nothing to do with her mysticism. I used a wide variety of sources in The Christ Conspiracy in order to show that I have covered the topic, because, before the book was completed, I was always getting questions regarding this author and that - "What about Sitchin?", for example. I included one or two mentions of Sitchin in order to show that I had indeed read his works and had factored them into my research, although not in the manner that Sitchinites wish. Believe it or not, I've had fanatic "spiritualists" chastise me for dismissing Blavatsky's perspective of Christ!
SF: Speaking of controversy, Kersey Graves seems to have been a big influence on your work. Unfortunately, Graves seems to be maligned above other past mythicists. Why is this?
AS: If you look at the citations in The Christ Conspiracy and Suns of God, you'll see I used relatively little of Kersey Graves's writing, and he did not have all that much of an influence on my work. In reality, I didn't need his work, because what he was conveying could be found all over the place. That being said, I will comment that the brouhaha over Graves's work has led to some very interesting parts of Suns of God, IMHO. Also, I was inspired enough by Graves's courage and insight that I wrote the foreword to AUP's edition of his book The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors. I don't know if anyone else has taken the time to really explore why Graves wrote what he did. Without having done such in-depth investigation - as I have done, engaging in what I believe to be fascinating detective work that absolves Graves of hasty and ignorant criticism - his critics are not particularly impressive. I would pronounce the fracas so much blowing of smoke. Graves is a favorite target because his book appeals to the mainstream and has endured for well over a century. Yet, I certainly don't concur with Graves's conclusions that all these "16 crucified saviors" were "real people" who bizarrely kept saying and doing the same things and getting themselves crucified in different places and eras, over and over again! Ridiculous. These are myths. As concerns influences on my writing, Barbara Walker and Gerald Massey are two scholars whose work I sincerely esteem. Because I used their work so abundantly in The Christ Conspiracy, I turned to numerous other sources for Suns of God, nevertheless showing the same salient motifs in mythologies from around the world. So, you see, it matters not what the source is: The truth is out there.
SF: I work with Evangelicals, and they can be very difficult, not to mention irrational. Is there any argument that will work with them, or should I just smile, point to the Sun, and walk away?
AS: By Jove, I think you've got it! There is little point in having any discussion with them on this subject. You can give them all the evidence in the world, and they will simply allow it to go over their heads. Their behavior becomes robotic - and sometimes quite hostile and unpleasant. In fact, when they can't "sweet talk" you into their brainwashing, they start in with the insults and threats. Very nice faith, that! When I have such discussions, I'm often asked how I know Jesus Christ is a myth. How do I know? I'm a mythologist, an expert on myths. If I'm an expert on grass and point out a patch of grass, do you question how I know it's grass? I wonder why such expertise is valued so little - is it because everyone is taught that he or she knows "the truth," simply by believing what someone else has told him or her? How is that possible? Regurgitated fables are "the truth?"
Have you spent hours upon hours contemplating the nature of the cosmos? Have you studied the world's religions and mythologies in depth? Is it even conceivable that you could wrap your noggin around many of the profound philosophical concepts? No, just because you have a head with brain matter in it does not make you an expert on religion, belief, spirituality or mythology. As in everything else, expertise in religion and philosophy must be earned. Then again, someone can be spiritual without having studied a thing - a simple old woman living in a cabin in the woods, for example. Or a small child. Spirituality is a whole different issue. But I find little to be spiritual about organized religion. And, certainly, believing what others have told you about Jesus Christ or some other "savior" is not a spiritual experience. Nor is having a "vision" of what you believe to be Christ. Millions of people in the past have had visions of countless other gods - none of these experiences has made those gods "real people." If they did, then the Egyptian Osiris and Isis would have to be considered the God/Goddess of the cosmos, because it is of them, arguably, that the majority of human beings who have ever lived had had the most visions. Moreover, "feeling" a god or goddess "in your heart" may constitute a "spiritual" experience, but it provides absolutely no evidence that the god or goddess ever walked upon the face of this earth.
SF: What do you think will be the future of the mythicist argument?
AS: I certainly hope it will go beyond the idiotic nitpicking and ad hominem foolishness occurring now. Professional jealousy and egotism are unfortunately blinding and stupefying what could be decent minds working on this subject, which is surely one of the most important that face humanity. So much of the rest of life hinges upon the reality that religion does not produce truthfulness in human beings. Au contraire! The fact that a large percentage of human beings have been made powerless and have been enslaved to false dogmas is a major reason why, in this day and age, with so much wealth and technology, and so many generations working on the problems, we still have such appalling poverty and violence on this planet. In the end, I hope, mankind will realize that superhuman saviors and godmen such as Jesus Christ are fictional characters, period. The picayune points of how such a fact came to be believed otherwise will ultimately be irrelevant; hence, to argue endlessly about whether or not this detail or date is correct is just plain silly and an utter waste of time.
SF: Finally, if I forgot anything, please feel free to add final comments of any nature, and thanks again for the interview.
AS: You're welcome! Thanks for the intelligent and relevant questions. It may be obvious to some that I am on a "mission" of a sort, and I would like to explain that there certainly was something percolating in me since childhood that has led me to study these subjects and write these works. One of my prime reasons for doing what I do is that when I was a child I was absolutely sickened by man's inhumanity to man and other creatures, and I continue to be sickened by it today. Although it is not the only reason for such inhumanity, religion has been the single largest factor in causing entire cultures to commit atrocious crimes, such as wholesale theft, torture, genocide, etc., ad nauseam. So long as humankind divides itself into "isms" there will never be peace on Earth and people will never progress to becoming true human beings. P
Acharya S is an archaeologist, classicist, historian, mythologist, linguist and member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece. She has served as a trench master on archaeological excavations in Corinth, Greece, and in Connecticut, USA. Acharya has traveled extensively around Europe, and she speaks, reads and/or writes Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Portuguese to varying degrees. She has also cross-referenced the Bible in the original Hebrew and ancient Greek. Acharya is the author of the best-selling and controversial The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold and the follow-up tour de force Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled. Articles by and about Acharya S have been published in several magazines and books, and Acharya has appeared on dozens of radio programs over the past decade. Her website is truthbeknown.com, and she may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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