Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Hallelujah Horus: Tom Harpur's View Of Another Christ (Part Deux)

Tom Harpur, Rhodes Scholar, journalist, professor, former Anglican priest
Author, "The Pagan Christ" (2004)


This is the second blog entry as I read through Tom Harpur's highly controversial 2004 book "The Pagan Christ," where he essentially asserts that practically nothing out of the Bible is original, but came from ancient Egyptian lore. For my first blog about this, visit here. And for a highly critical response to Harpur, visit here.

To begin his sixth chapter "Convincing The Sceptics," Harpur quotes Gerald Massey once again, this time from his book "The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ." I believe that quote is worth repeating here:

"Considered as those of a human being, the character and teachings of the Christ in the Gospels are composed of contradictions and opposites impossible to harmonize. In fact, the many hundreds of sects and denominations of Christians who are today engaged in formulating the theology of their assumed founder and in denying each other's interpretation, do but inevitably represent the organic disunity from the beginning, and reflect the fragmentary nature of the origins.

The general assumptions concerning the gospels is that the historical element was the kernel of the whole, and that fables accreted around it; whereas the myths, being pre-extant, prove that the core of the material was mythical, and it then follows that the "history" is incremental...The worst foes of the truth have ever been the rationalizers of the mythos. They have assumed the existence of a personal founder of Christianity as the fundamental fact. They have done their best to humanize...they mythos by discharging the supernatural and miraculous...in order that it might be accepted. Thus, they have lost the battle by fighting it on the wrong ground."

~ Gerald Massey

Harpur then continues with his chapter by saying that "As we examine the similarities between the words and miracles of Horus and those of Jesus, we will discover fresh, unsuspected insights and meanings in Bible texts that once seemed worn, beyond belief, nonsensical, or simply inexplicable. Comparing the two representative Christs helps us move out of old, and now irrelevant, paradigms toward the universality of the much deeper message behind it all.

Comparisons Between Horus and Jesus:
  • Horus says "I am the baby born as the connecting link between earth and heaven. Jesus came to "bring glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those of good will."
  • The baby Jesus is threatened by Herod. In the story of Horus, the infant is immediately threatened by  an evil being called Herut. 
  • In the New Testament, the angel of the Lord says to Joseph, "Arise, take the young child and his mother and flee to Egypt. At the birth of Horus, the god That says to the mother, "Come goddess, hide thyself with thy child."
  • All four Gospels declare that Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by his cousin John, dubbed "the baptizer." John was later beheaded by Herod Antipas, and this signalled the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. Horus was baptized by Anup, the Egyptian John the Baptist, was also later beheaded.
  • The spirit, like a dove, descends on both Jesus and Horus, noting the divine energy of the soul.
  • Both Jesus and Horus were 30 years old when baptized. 
  • Both Jesus and Horus have gaps in their lives between ages 12 and 30.
Harpur continues by speaking of the ministry, teachings, and miracles of Jesus and Horus, noting that in the Egyptian myth and symbolism, the kingly force of life - the sun and the spiritual reality it stood for in each human being - was thought to be caught up in an ongoing struggle against elements seeking to limit or destroy its potency. Thus:
  • Horus, who represented the spiritual light, is depicted as engaged in a great spiritual warfare with various mythical creatures. Jesus, the agent of light against darkness, was involved in a running battle with Satan.
  • Both Horus and Jesus have temptation stories. Horus was taken to a desert to a high mountain and tempted, but overcomes it. Jesus overcomes temptation by Satan after being tempted to throw himself off a temple. Harpur concludes that these stories represent an ongoing battle in each of us, and that the Christ presence gives us the victory.
Miracles:
  • "Great crowds came to (Jesus), bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put him at his feet and he cured them." (Matthew 15). Much earlier, Horus had opened dumb mouths and performed healings, such as sight to the blind and casting out demons.  The inner meaning was that Horus' spiritual influence caused their lives to express the words of power and truth. This is the allegorical essence behind Jesus' healings too. The Christ within gives each of us the power to find and express "our own true voice."
Harpur says that "the healings remain tremendously important. Spiritually, the message is that the Christ (or divinity) within each of us can be called upon to aid us in all our infirmities. In the Gospels, the disciples were fearful of an approaching storm, but Jesus was asleep in the stern of their boat; like them, we need to awaken the Christ within and draw upon that resource. The healings of the Gospels are not cancelled out. Far from it. They are seen in their true light, as illustrations of God's healing power yesterday, today, and always."
  • Continuing with the miracle stories, Harpur writes that Horus emerges from the rage of a nocturnal storm on the waters in the calm of a bright daybreak. It was written of him, "He hath destroyed the water-flood of his mother...He has dispersed the raging rain storm!" Also in one place, Osiris is said to keep souls from being drowned in the symbolic waters of incarnation. Jesus, in a popular story from the Gospels, is sleeping in the stern of a boat when his disciples panic and wake him up during a violent storm to save them, and he calms the seas. Harpus concludes: "What such passages are actually about is the power of the Christ within each of us to still the strong, restless power of the elements in our lower animal nature, symbolized by the wild and roiling sea. Instead of a literal story about a kind of magician, we have a relevant and potentially transformative wisdom to apply to our daily life."
  • The emphasis on the number three: The Bible follows the Egyptian emphasis on this number. Jesus stayed behind at the temple after his bar mitzvah and Mary and Joseph looked for him for 3 days.. Jesus had compassion on the crowd because "they continue with me three days." Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  Meanwhile, Horus also rose on the third day. Harpur's conclusion is that the number 3 represents the period of incubating life - a special time when something new is about to break forth. However, he says, it was based on solidly on Egyptian lore. There are other important "events" in Scripture that were said to have happened in 3 days. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days, Jesus said he would raise up the temple in 3 days, etc.
Other similarities between Horus and Jesus:
  • Both Jesus and Horus were known as the Good Shepherd
  • Both Jesus and Horus were described as coming forth as the Winnower (with Jesus being described as gathering his wheat into the granary and the chaff burning with unquenchable fire..
  • Both Jesus and Horus are described as the Light of the World
  • Both Jesus and Horus are described as the Bread of Heaven. Horus says, "I am a soul and my soul is divine. I am he who produceth food. I am the food that perished not." Jesus said, "I am that bread of life...Whoever eats of the bread that I shall give him will never hunger." Both are speaking about the same deep spiritual realities.
  • The concept of being "born twice" or "born again" is present in almost all early religions, including the Egyptian cults.
  • Both Horus and Jesus make lengthy pleas to their Fathers.
  • The Isaiah passage that speaks of one being despised and afflicted by men and bearing our pain, being wounded for our transgressions sounds more like a reference to Horus.
Here, Harpur again notes that Christianity suffered a grave loss when authorities in the 3rd and 4th centuries went on a rampage destroying religious documents and commentaries on the Gospels. For instance, Basilides, a Gnostic theologian wrote a 24-volume study, one of the first commentaries on the Gospels. He was steeped in all the ancient wisdom and his interpretations of the Gospels would have been of priceless value to the world and to would-be Christians today.  He expounded "a fully spiritual, allegorical, and symbolic interpretation of the Christos based upon his knowledge of Greek, Hebraic, and Egyptian lore. We have an urgent need to recover his vision."

To conclude this chapter of The Pagan Christ, Harpur says the following: "Today's Christianity needs a cosmic yet inner Christ, not some personalized idol in a narrow cult that bids all the world to come to it - on its terms alone. People need and want a connection to God that has already been planted in the soil of their own minds and hearts. Knowing the Horus story is a sublime myth, we can penetrate once more - like Origen and the other earliest Christians - to the heart of the same eternal myth carried by the Gospels. That's where my hope for the future of the Church really lives - in the Christ within."

A few thoughts:

Firstly, I realize that this particular book by Tom Harpur has generated a lot of controversy and parts of it, if not all, have been widely dismissed. However, I find it interesting that it is not only the Egyptian god Horus who has similarities to the Jesus story, but other ancient myths as well. I shall do more research.

Secondly, I really tend to connect with Harpur when he talks about the real meaning behind the Christos archetype. What can we take out of these stories, even if they are just stories? We can connect with the message that each of can find that Christ spark within us, that divine light as we live our daily lives and strive to overcome darkness.  

More to come!