The Pagan Faith of Martin Luther King Jr.

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5 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    Great article Miguel “It is well-nigh impossible to grasp Christianity through and through without knowledge of these cults.” That seems to be a really bold statement, especially for a theologian in the 50s or 60s.

    I think it’s very interesting King struggled with the virgin birth and resurrection. As I’m sure you’re well aware, many of the earliest groups, such as the Ebionites, Cerinthians, and Carpocratians (and even the Western Valentinians) all probably rejected (or were oblivious of) it.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Shared! Love this Miguel, beautiful 🙂

  3. Rafi Simonton says:

    I did not know about this aspect of M L King’s writing. Thanks for that.

    But these questions were not totally unheard of among theologians of the past. Several excerpts of what became known as Gnostic gospels have long been known, for example the “Hymn of Jesus” that G R S Mead worked on, the Jung Codex, and a few sections of the Gospel of Thomas. Then the big discoveries– the (Jewish) Essene writings at Qumran 1947, and the Gnostic gospels at Nag Hammadi 1945. Notice also that among the cache there were works of Greek philosophy as well as parts of the Corpus Hermeticum. These finds sparked debate, which at the time was mostly among obscure academics.

    There have also been many studies of the influences of pagan culture. By which I mean both in the sense of the classical (Egyptian, Greek, Roman) and as adaptations from indigenous northern European and Mediterranean cultures. See as an example Warner Jaeger’s Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, written in 1961.

    The early Christians weren’t unaware of the influences. Justin Martyr, ca 140, who taught in Rome, was a trained philosopher. From him the 1st explanations of the idea of Logos. Clement of Alexandra ca 200, wrote explicitly in terms of Hellenistic philosophy. Implicitly about Jewish esotericism and various forms of Gnosticism. The Byzantine Basil the Great and other Cappadocians ca 350, as heirs to the ancient Greeks, were understandably also positive in their use of philosophy.

    As for questioning the virgin birth and the resurrection… Not all Christians are the type of fearful person who cannot abide uncertainty or ambiguity. Many who are theologians or members of religious orders (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican) do wrestle with this stuff. Besides, why take these mythologies literally? Then again, why the need to reject them unless there is some reluctance to consider anything not rationalistic or materialistic?

    Then the Big Question: “What will be the next stage in man’s religious progress?” I think the forms of high weirdness testified to by the various people interviewed on Aeon Byte radio are previews. My own explorations began with several intense mystical experiences decades ago. Fortunately, I’m from the Pacific Northwest, where it is not unusual to be raised without religion. I did not have to force my encounters into any predetermined framework. But I sure did my best to find somewhere that fit. I studied among the eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, many of whom I respect and for whom I still feel deep affection. But ultimately, I found that they did not know how to get to the experiential, explaining that as reserved to grace. As for neo-Gnostics, they do have some interesting ideas, but I have deep reservations about the various churches. Nor do I see much evidence that they know much more than the consensus traditions.

    Check out customer reviews on sites like Amazon regarding books on Gnosticism. Comments indicating that there is a deep need for a how-to, ways that people can find their own do-it-yourself spirituality. That’s where I think we’re heading. I’m convinced that we all have potential; the divine within. It’s not merely bestowed passively. For the last ten years, I’ve been working on a way to do this. Helpful to know that the root meaning of education, from the Latin educare, means to draw out.

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