Theodora

Theodora from a mosaic in SanVitale in Ravenna.

There was a time when reincarnation was understood to be a part of life in the early Christian church, beginning with Jesus himself who mentions it at various points in books that escaped the noted heresy hunters of the early church. To understand this story and how a central teaching could have been stricken so completely from the dogma of a religion, it helps to know some history surrounding the change.  So come with me on a quick tour of the past as I bring to you the documents of the time as they come alive with the mystique of a conspiracy to quell or silence something basic as the root of our becoming as spiritual beings.  It is a story that will have the power to leave billions without the awareness of who they are deeper down and what they are capable of as sovereign beings here on the earth. It is about, I think, about the true seat of power which has remained unclaimed by easily 95% of e3very person who has inhabited the earth for the last two-to three thousand years.

Stirring Up Differences For Gain

At least in part, the storm surrounding reincarnation has to do with Jesus himself and an idea that had little to nothing to do with reincarnation, but everything about who Jesus was.  This is what I call the “scattershot effect” of unintended consequences that we see  through history:  a ruler outlaws one thing while something unrelated gets pulled into the scope at the same time and “taken out.” Its sad to see and it happens a lot (and I assume this is what happened in the case of our story here—there may be still yet more to the story than I am uncovering!).  In this case, there were two schools of thought that raged not long after the church was founded under Constantine.  One were  people like Nestorius, the Abbot of Antioch (in Turkey), who said that Mary should be the mother of Jesus, not of God.  Nestorius explained that Mary birthed a man, not a God. Along with Nestor is also Origen and a few others who were writing about much more mystical and subtle takes on the teachings of Jesus. But it is this second view that I describe and the people surrounding it, that came under attack in the church. The subtext here with the view of these people is that we can all work and ascend to the same height as Jesus did (John 14-12).  This, though, amounts to heresy within the church today.

The journey of awakening that I am experiencing shows clearly that we have the means within to reach to a broader awareness of who we are, an awareness that can shatter and destroy our previous preconceptions of who we think we are.  It wasn’t always this way, though, as the history on the issue shows. When I went looking to try and find some understanding or a common voice on the matter of my awakening, I came across the Gnostic works of the Nag Hammadi and found page by page that they were describing the experience of nonduality and the awakening from which this experience so commonly springs.  And really, this is so uncommon an experience that you can’t fake or mistake it too often when reading someone else who is “under the influence” of having been awakened. You are dealing with a hyperdimensional phenomenon probably not too unlike some of the things that Terrance Mckenna describes in his DMT trips.  So unique are these that its hard to mistake them for anything else on the planet.  So the same was with my experience and the people who were saying “Here we are, we know what you are going through!”  were people who had long since left the planet.  Clearly, a lot had been weeded out over the generations.  Even if its ben done by an agency as holy and sacred as the church, I feel that we each have a responsibility to place the truth back where it belongs even if that truth has suffered or has been misplaced by a pope, even. And so it is that I write about these clashing factions because in some way the discussion is not yet over in regards to what happened. Perhaps once we know and we can reconcile it so that its mystery no longer captures us, we can then move on to bigger and better things.

The effect, though, is powerful.  In documents that the church puts forward, the issue of reincarnation is not even mentioned.  It does not mention how, by the way, the council  did away with the ideas of reincarnation while dispensing with Jesus as God or man.  It is as though the reincarnation bit just didn’t even exist. On an orthodox historical sight, there is not a peep about any of this whatsoever.  And this is how knowledge is rewritten or remade.  It is also how history is rewritten. It is done just as Napoleon stated; by the victors.  But how do you strike something from the hearts and souls of all men and women?

Another way of thinking was that Jesus was all-God and not a man who achieved godly status, he just merely “came around” (with some help from John the Baptist) to who he was, which was unmistakable and something he could not escape. This way of thinking was called monophysitism.  These were two VERY different ways of thinking about Jesus.  One way suggested that we each could become like Christ (see Gospel of Phillip who asserts that his master was actually making the disciples Christs themselves). The suggestion in this view was that we had to take on Christ by allowing him into our hearts and lives as our personal savior who also happened to have paid an ultimate sacrificial debt. This was itself a very different matter from what Phillip proposed and which many others in the newly-discovered Nag Hammadi codices have also asserted.  It is what I have noted as one of the most basic misunderstandings about ourselves as spiritual beings and will either assist us or limit us depending on which path you accept as a belief. And yet, here we are today, with the debt that Jesus paid as being so incredibly central to belief.

These were the two divergent themes that were working against each other, right along with the political aspirations of both the emperors and other rulers under the main emperor.  Imagine a world and a time when the church power and the state power were intermingled as a result of the Church’s rise of influence among the people a century earlier.

This church, along with its followers, were a rag-tag band of people who were the only individuals in the empire who were willing to die for their beliefs.  The Christians back then were like the death martyrs of the Muslim extremist of today who walks into a crowd, willing to give his  or her life in order to take out the unbelievers.  This was the condition of early Christianity decades prior to its being instituted as a state-accepted religion.  Pagan (Roman) statues were being toppled in highly public ways by these people, and they saw being nailed to a cross as an honor.  These people believed that a better kingdom was at hand and they were ready and willing to see the old kingdom (as they understood it) to be toppled so that the great peaceful world of their king Jesus could be installed.  This was at about three to four hundred years after the death of Jesus where they believed that when he said a new kingdom would come, that this was literal truth.  There was also the Revelation of John in which he describes a rather brutal take-down of the bloody harlot that most scholars agree was Rome.  The kingdom was at hand and Christians were ready to help tease it into existence.  Jesus had even said the Kingdom was at hand, didn’t he?  And I ask, given how brutal life was back then, why wouldn’t you yearn for a new Way, provided by a more peaceful leader, a Christ?  Given how people were choosing to understand the doctrine that Jesus laid out several centuries before, this became a rallying cry to those who would follow him.  Christianity was not going away, this much was clear.     There was a split that had to do with teachings that were largely scoured from the early church, but whose memory of them still remained in pockets within the church.  It was this divide, believe it or not, that would lead to the Inquisition centuries later.  It was partly due to a Gnostic-leaning Cathar sect in the church that threatened the established power structure of the church as authoritarian and paternalistic that the Inquisition even began (and turned into the bloodbath this it is now known for). That, though, is for another post.  Back to the 5th and 6th century A.D……

It was in this environment that there were many people with many different divergent ideas about who Jesus was and what his teachings were all about.  In fact, there was an “Old Rome” and “New Rome” split that was slowly taking place after the Council of Nicea which placed Christianity in its place of power where it would grow and eventually find a place at the table with every European government or colony of them that followed.  The split I am talking about was one that had to do not just with a church but also a State (Rome). So when you say Rome or Christianity, you are saying the the same thing, even though the two were different entities, they both aided the other in sharing power.

The two Romes that were splitting were doing so due to resentments having to do with the theology (not Roman law) of this new religion. The Eastern Roman Empire centered in Constantinople and the Western Roman Empire located in Rome experienced a split initially due to Constantine seeking to name himself a ‘Proto-Apostolos’  meaning ‘first of the apostles’, and placed his tomb in the middle of the cenotaph of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople. (nestorian.org)

People both in and out of power were furious with Constantine’s efforts to write himself into the history books in this way, and it led to some bitter divisions.  The result was that those within the church who were divergent along these lines found themselves in disputes between two divisions in the church. This led to infighting between the more literal-thinkers and the mystic-thinkers in the church and was most likely the reason for a lot of the early finger-pointing and labeling people anathema and heretics.  I suspect that the diversity in the church up to this time may have been much more tolerated simply because the differences were not pressed upon or tested so much until Constantine got greedy and dishonest with trying to make himself seem chummy with the Apostle by being buried among them. The biggest divisions had already been worked out of the church, hadn’t they?  Hadn’t the heretics and their deadly books been dispensed with through hanging or burning (both the people as well as the scrolls they claimed were important to understanding Christianity) a generation before at the instituting of the church in the 5th century A.D.?.

When you point out the differences in another of your own kind, you can reveal division where a moment before there was none.  You can CREATE division.  It is through division that support, power, and riches, are all commonly taken either through force or by way of theft.  It is also how you take down an opponent politically at the knees. If I show how different you really are from the average person, I can easily gain more support for my cause or side.  Whether in politics or religion, the effect is the same.  Identify how they are different.  Boom.  All you need are enough people behind you and you can steer change within the government or church in the way that you want. You can ardently believe in your cause or you can not believe a word of it.  It does not matter.  The strategy works either way.  Remember, when we talk about history, we aren’t always talking about the high water marks of truth and justice, but in what people took to be right at the time….for whatever reason they did so. Knowing what is true and being in power were themselves often mutually exclusive.

A Difference In Gnosis

Against this background there is a rich history of early church fathers who wrote about the pre-existance of the soul and about reincarnation.  This had been in place for centuries before the 400-550 A.D. period which became so contentious where it was related to religion.  Origen was one such early writer who wrote about the soul existing prior to birth as well as what would become controversial thinking about such things as final reconciliation of all creatures, including perhaps even the devil (the apokatastasis). (wikipedia.org) Nestorius and others like him were early writers who all either hinted or pointed directly at pre-existance as an accepted fact of early church teachings.  It would be through various councils that these kinds of writings would be considered anathema and heretical.

The way that this most directly happened within the church was that a woman named Theodora, who rose from humble beginnings to be the chosen concubine of emperor Justinian. Later as his wife, she was instrumental in making the changes in the church doctrine that made reincarnation an outsider once and for all. The question is who is this Theodora and how did she wield such power?

Theodora was born the daughter of a bear-keeper of Constantinople’s hippodrome in about AD500.  Her father who died when she was young, led her mother to entering her daughters into the theater in order to make a living, which was again at the Hippodrome, a large 30,000 seat facility where major performances were viewed by the people of the day.  Thus, Theodora was an early actress. (Duffy, The Guardian)

Some of what we know about Theodora comes from  a searingly critical account of her and her husband’s lives that was so controversial that it was ordered to be printed AFTER the author’s life. This book, Procopius’s Secret History, is no doubt part fiction mixed with fact.  Whenever you have a critic that is as harsh as this author is, you cannot escape such a reality.  The problem though is that these kinds of accounts are mixed with what is true and what is not true.  Procopious was assigned to the same military leader that was called upon to depose a pope later on in our historical jaunt through time.

There is one school of thought that seeks to raise Theodora to the level of saint (which she is in the church) and another which does the exact opposite.  What we do know is that she had a child before meeting up with Justinian. We also know that she sought to be mistress to Hecebolus who was then-governor of Persipolos, which is located in what is now known as Lybia (northern Africa). She may have been a prostitute.  She was said to have so abused her position with Hecebolus that he had her stripped of her riches (which he bestowed upon her) and cast her out with nothing but the clothes on her back.  This was all at the insistence of the people being governed, who seemed to so despise this woman that they demanded such actions be taken.  (Seiler, facts-are-facts.com) Its hard to know precisely what are facts from the book written by Procopius, but one thing is clear; Theodora set up a home for women who had been prostitutes in order to care for them and provide them a means out of their former life.She is said to have “rounded up” about 500 prostitutes and forced them into a convent.  Was it forced, or was she doing them a favor? Was she thinking back on her own life when she was a prostitute also? I am not here judging the woman.  Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, as far as I am concerned.

Theodora worked her way back to the circles of power in Alexandria after this fall, and along the way she was taken in by a hermit named Eutyches who was forced into exile by Rome for his doctrine of monophystism, which held that Jesus was all-God and not a man who rose to become godly, which was what Origen and Nestorius along with many other before them had written and taught about.  Theodora remembered the kindness bestowed to her and sought to press for the monophystic view as an accepted part of church dogma. Theodora was thus an important, central, even, character, in helping to bring the monophysitists back to the church (realize, they had been banished up until this time by the powers within Rome–this is the point where the church and state intermingled).

What happened in the early church was that when someone had an idea that they wanted to put forward, they did so in a public forum, hoping to gain populist support for it.  If this opinion was popular enough, it had a chance of making its way into the canon.  These meetings were called “synods” and numerous groups within the church would call them.  If there was a show of support for the ideas presented in the synod, those at the forefront of these meetings would press for an Ecumenical Council be called so that an important decision could be made about what was being presented or discussed. Synods were called both for and against this concept related to the nature of Jesus as both man and god.

It was in 451 that the 4th Ecumenical Council was called.  This was also referred to as the Council of Chalcedon and it was used to formerly condemn monophy. Theodora later pressed Patriarch Mennas to convene the synod of the Eastern Church of Constantinople in 543, which sought to revoke the condemnation of monophystism as well as the affirmation of reincarnation which was codified in the church law or doctrine in 451. And so it was that one council affirmed reincarnation while another just a few years reverses its position. And you know what happened?  Everyone who were followers began believing what the church told them to believe. It just happened.  And it spread like wildfire, apparently.

Now remember how I said that there was an Eastern and Western split in the church?  In order to gain the kind of support that Theodora needed for this action, she had to also bring the Western Roman Empire under her control. How to do this? Theodora was cunning in her efforts.  Belisarius was commanded by Theodora to depose the reigning Pope Silverius who had been installed by the Goths. This Pope was the former subdeacon Silverius, the son of Pope Hormisdas (Wikipedia, Belisarius).  In this way, Theodora was able to aggregate power both for her and her husband’s empire while also getting the support of a larger church under her wing to lend more power to her efforts to unify the church around the concept of a monophysite Jesus.

Some have argued that Theodora did not like the concept of reincarnation because it had the power to wipe away her ability to ascend to the level of a worshiped goddess.  By having one life, she would be judged based on those deed, not those of other lifetimes, and it was Theodora who wanted to be worshiped in the way that the ancient emperors and empresses were worshiped from the time of the Caesars.

it was reincarnation, though, that helped to explain why one person would be born into great riches, while another would be born into poverty, or why one person would have a club foot while another would have what would have been considered a beautiful body at the time. Reincarnation may have opened a huge can of worms that would also help to explain so much about why our world was the way it was.  It was this view, however, that was rejected in the 6th century and has remained the reigning view ever since.

The books  or codices that were dug up from the desert near the town of Nag Hammadi reveals Jesus speaking to his disciples and other followers about souls being “sown” back into new bodies, explaining why some people come into a life with advantages and others with disadvantages.  It was all because of what had happened in another lifetime. The journey-work of perfecting ourselves, it seems, requires a very long period of study over lifetimes in order to get to a place where we move into “heaven.”  Instead of a place, this is a state of being.  I will also point out that what has sparked awakening of the divine within has all been the same regardless of religious affiliation: it has been an encounter with a brilliant pure white light.  Those who have had awakenings have described these flashes of bright white light and those who have have Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) have also described the same encounter with a white light.  Both return from their experiences changed.  Many often begin work that seeks to serve humankind.  Some become healers, some teachers.  All feel driven to make a change in the world.  It was also a description within the Nag Hammadi codices that identify that this white light encounter is something that unites us with the part within that knows heaven and can learn to anchor this state of being to earth.  The experience is universal in the sense that anyone being so touched by this light will experience a range of symptoms that are the same.  The Hindu describe this as the activation of kundalini. The Christians describe this as the Holy Ghost, and the Pacific Islanders call this Kah. The Egyptians also called this force as Ka, and was the part of us that left the body upon death.

Next up:

Part II – If Reincarnation Is Real Why Can’t I Remember My Past Lives?

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belisarius

http://www.nestorian.org/the_lynching_of__nestorius.html

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/10/theodora-empress-from-the-brothel

http://www.facts-are-facts.com/magazin/6-reincarnation-the-churchs-biggest-lie.ihtml

http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/procop-anec.asp

Advertisements