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Of Gods and States

No one need think that the world can be ruled without blood. The civil sword shall and must be red and bloody. ~ Martin Luther, Reformer

"The syrinx of Pan with its changeable sweet notes tuning up for battle." ~ Dionysiaca 29.284

"The herdsman Pan sang loudly, pouring out his victorious note, drawing on the Satryoi to dance drunkenly after their war." ~ Dionysiaca 17.376

We have a remarkable story by the Greek historian Plutarch (“The Obsolescence of Oracles” (Moralia, Book 5:17)), concerning, the Greek god Pan, who was said to have died.

Plutarch relates that during the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death came to a sailor by the name of Thamus, who was sailing to Italy by way of the island of Paxi.1 "Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, not known by name even to many on board." As the ship approached the island of Paxi, twice a voice was heard calling to Thamus but he gave no reply. However, the third time Thamus answered and the caller, raising his voice said, "when you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead."

On hearing this news all on board the ship "were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it was better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place, he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them: u2018Great Pan is dead.' Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentations, not of one person, but many, mingled with exclamations of amazement."

Plutarch then goes on to relate how when the story reached the Emperor Tiberius, he became convinced that it was true and commissioned an investigation into whether the great god Pan was indeed dead.

Tiberius should have known better; however, he was renowned for also being a fool.

The Greek god Pan (meaning "all") symbolized the debased and corrupt side of human nature. He was the god, who in the ancient thinking represented the conflict of humanity: uneducated bestiality verses culture. Thus, Pan was represented by his two forms and two natures: a horned, furry, half-man, half-goat who was a robust, passionate and an able musician, at other times a beast given to mindless fear or rage and not adverse to tearing people apart. As humans we live as cultured animals and in homes, the beasts of the field live in dens and run in packs. Pan, as a herdsman, tried to bridge the gap between humans and wild beasts by sleeping in a cowshed. As the god of herdsman, Pan at times was endowed with super strength as a superior warrior.

Thus, the god Pan stands as a messenger between the culture of the civilized and the wildness of the fields or forests.

Plato saw Pan in the uniquely human use of language; like Pan, language, both written and spoken, is used for lying and declaring the truth.

Pan was seen as illustrating all things and he affected all things human, whether moral or immoral, good or bad, cultured or barbaric.

It is because of Pan's fits of unreasoning anger and his love of terrifying those who wandered into his world, that we have the words "pandemonium" and "panic." The ancients reasoned that the chaos which results from unexpected or unreasonable terror was due to the increasing chasm between the gods and men thus destroying the human community and leading humans back to a state of bestiality or savagery.

William Foxwell Albright both witnessed and studied primitive societies and concluded:

"The savage seldom or never thinks of the individual as having a distinct personality; all tends to be merged in collective or corporate personality, or is dissolved in factitious relationships between men, animals, plants, and cosmic or other inanimate objects and forces."2 1957 (Emphasis mine)

Panic, characterized by overpowering terror creating pandemonium, has long been the tool of the state since it spreads quickly throughout society while being impervious to reasoning and logic. It is through the use of these legacies of Pan, that the transforming of human beings from individuals to communal animals, controlled by herd instinct, results in the reorganization of society into an easily restrained collective.

Perhaps then, it is not at all coincidental that at the time the ancient world was being informed of the death of the god Pan, Christianity was taking root and changing the way people thought. After all, this new way of thinking was not given to panic nor was it subject to the primitive delights offered either by the state or the adoration of the state; at least not for the first two and one half centuries after Nero. Rather, Christianity, which Pliny called a "contagious superstition," fostered those adherents who, in the words Étienne de La Boétie, felt that "…obviously there is no need of fighting to overcome this single tyrant, for he is automatically defeated if the country refuses consent to its own enslavement."

I am fully aware that most people are not use to thinking of the Roman Empire as a savage or barbaric society. However, one does not have to spend much time studying Roman history to find the absolute barbarism inherent in the nature of the empire or the Roman culture. The fact is that when a people are subjugated to a collective mentality and function as a herd, they are by definition a group of savages and this is irrespective of cultural advancements or material wealth.

Thus, Christianity demoted the god Pan to the status of chief among demons; and took the battle over the Roman Emperor's right to the unnatural, pretentious, and slavish love of being honored as both god and man, to the very halls of power. In return the Roman Empire marshaled it barbaric attitude, armed, and brutally fought to maintain its long-standing supremacy as the sole representative, and the highest expression, of either god or man.

It should have been no contest. Rome logically should have been able to fully and completely suppress the enemy roaming the empire. Rome certainly would have but for the zeal and tenacious ethic that the Christians brought with them.

I believe William Marina in his June 1, 1975 article, Surviving in the Interstices, properly states the successful tactic of the early Christians as being "a superior ethic based upon natural law and a superior voluntary social organization which, in true interstices fashion, simply bypassed the inefficient State. The viability of that institutional structure was a reflection of the legitimacy with which its value system came to be regarded."

Mr. Marina continues:

Christianity …"rejected suicide as unnatural, and refused to accept the status quo. One did not try to escape, but to build an interstices community. As Peter Brown observes:"

"By 200 the Christian communities were not recruited from among the u2018humble and oppressed': they were groupings of the lower middle classes and of the respectable artisans of the cities. Far from being deprived, these people had found fresh opportunities and prosperity in the Roman Empire: but they also had to devise ways of dealing with the anxieties and uncertainties of their new position."

"Christian intersticism dealt with the affairs of this world. In a period of inflation it invested capital in people. In plagues and rioting it was the only group capable of providing burial for the dead and organizing food supplies for the living. Christian philanthropy was supporting 1500 poor and widows in Rome by the year 250 and large sums were contributed to ransom captives from the barbarians. Several generations earlier the State had already confessed its inability to cope with such problems. u2018Plainly, to be a Christian in 250 brought more protection from one’s fellows than to be a civis romanus.'"

Thus, when Constantine sought, in 316 AD, to co-opt Christianity into the power structure of the state, the Roman state had lost the battle but not the war. The only way Constantine could possibly begin to unify the western empire was by elevating the status of the Christians within the empire.

So, Constantine worked to change the face of western history by converting the old Roman Empire to Christianity. This one ruler and his lust for power had made it possible for imperial Rome to survive and rule for another 1000 plus years and in so doing forced Christianity into loosing the war.

Christianity had been seduced by the gentle melody of the syrinx, as the god Pan played his song of unfulfilled and unrequited love. The lure and lust of power, with the trapping of state, had turned the heads of those whose obstinate love for the ethos of natural law had helped bring one of the most brutal empires of the ancient world to it knees. Now the church had taken to itself the role of the preponderate power behind the thrones of all the western nations.

Displaced and discarded, to the catacombs and decaying walls of antiquity, were the early symbols of Christianity; the fish, representing the early church's desire to feed and comfort the needy; the olive branch, the symbol of Christianity's good will towards all men; and the dove, that long sought desire of the ancients to breach the chasm of unreasonable terror due to the increasing abyss between God and men.

The modern Messianic state, supported and bolstered by the legitimacy of the Christian church, had arrived. Unfurled were the ensigns of the savagery which were ultimately to be the continuing legacy of the western "Christian" state: the cross, the instrument of torture and terror; the sword, the terrible crushing force of state; and the Chi-Rho, the ensign of conquest and wars.

The new mantra of the great Messianic state became peace through war. Thus, state sponsored terror spread panic and pandemonium throughout the world until every land was soaked with the blood of the unfaithful. So it continues today, death, destruction, wars and rumors of war and to what avail?

If war is the health of the state then it cannot be denied that peace through war is the gospel of the Messianic state.

As we approach the day set aside to honor a risen savior, I will leave it to the reader to decide which god is most venerated for having come back from the dead.

Notes

  1. Paxi – "A symphony in green and blue," is how one might describe PAXI. PAXI is 32 miles south of Corfu's port and 12 miles from the mainland. The smallest of the Ionian Islands, less than 25 sq km it is a bare ten kilometers long by four wide. The locals make a living from olive picking, fishing and in recent years, tourism.
  2. William Foxwell Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, page 169, 1957.

March 24, 2005