Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, Page 476

“The thirteenth century had brought to completion a great synthesis, philosophical, theological, political and social which had been slowly built up by the combination of many elements. The first element was pure Greek philosophy, especially the philosophies of Pythagoras, Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle. Then came, as a result of Alexander’s conquests, a great influx of oriental beliefs.

“These, taking advantage of Orphism and the Mysteries, transformed the outlook of the Greek-speaking world and ultimately of the Latin-speaking world also.

“The dying and resurrected god, the sacramental eating of what purported to be the flesh of the god, the second birth into a new life through some ceremony analogous to baptism, came to be part of the theology of large sections of the pagan Roman world.

“With these was associated an ethic of liberation from bondage to the flesh which was, at least theoretically, ascetic.

“From Syria, Egypt, Babylonia and Persia came the institution of a priesthood separated from the lay population, possessed of more or less magical powers and able to exert considerable political influence.

“Impressive rituals, largely connected with belief in a life after death came from the same sources.

“From Persia, in particular, came a dualism which regarded the world as the battleground of two great hosts, one, which was good, led by Ahura Mazda, the other, which was evil, led by Ahriman. Black magic was the kind that was worked by the help of Ahriman and his followers in the world of spirits. Satan is a development of Ahriman.

“Christianity combined elements of strength from various sources.

From the Jews it accepted a Sacred book and the doctrine that all religions but one are false and evil; but it avoided the racial exclusiveness of the Jews and the inconveniences of the Mosaic law. Later Judaism had already learnt to believe in the life after death but the Christians gave a new definiteness to heaven and hell and to the ways of reaching the one and escaping the other.

“Easter combined the Jewish Passover with pagan celebrations of the resurrected God. Persian dualism was absorbed but with a firmer assurance of the ultimate omnipotence of the good principle and with the addition that the pagan gods were followers of Satan.”



Filed under: Overheard

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment