Response to jesusblogger: early trinity beliefs

My comment to a post by jesusblogger:

I’m sure my view of Christianity is different than yours, but I appreciate you pointing out this discrepancy between early and later Christian doctrine. And it certainly isn’t the only example. One thing that I found interesting is how later Christians often judged the views of Christians prior to them as heretical. The earliest Christian church held many diverse views including those of Valentinus and Marcion. Then the heresiologists took over the church and declared heretical these early church views of Christianity.

I find it odd that all of the earliest commentators of the New Testament were later banned and burned. For instance, the first NT commentary ever written (by Basilides) was entirely destroyed by other Christians later on and the first commentators of Paul and John were labelled as not being Christian (i.e., Gnostic). The funny thing is that many of the third century Christians who judged heretical the views of some of the first and second century Christians were themselves deemed heretical (in part or whole) by fourth and fifth century Christians.

The heresiologists only came into power a century or more after Jesus and so why should we give them priority over the Christians that actually knew Christianity as it was first forming? This is a very important question considering that scholarship has shown how much the New Testament was altered (intentionally and accidentally) in the centuries after the life of Jesus. What we now consider the canonical New Testament took centuries to form and the idea of a Christian canon was originated by a Gnostic (i.e., Marcion).

It’s difficult uncovering what was original to the earliest Christians, but it’s worth the effort even if it means doubting what has become doctrine in what is called “traditional” Christianity.  What seems obvious to me is that there was no single monolithic view of Jesus from the beginning.  Even accepting the canonical New Testament as it is, there are very important differences between the gospels: differing details (some quite significant), different ideas and words emphasized, etc.  And the differences between the gospel writers and Paul are even more interesting. 

The challenge is that, if the ealiest Christians weren’t even of a single agreement about every issue, how are we to decide what is authentic almost two thousand years later?  If the heresiologists from the second century on were seemingly so misunderstanding of the earlier Christians, then how are we to come to a better understanding now?  It takes immense amounts of study along with soul searching doubts and questions to even begin to grasp an inkling of the common threads to early Christianity.

Egyptian Christianity: Origins and Destruction

OsirisDionysus– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term Osiris-Dionysus is used by some historians of religion[1] to refer to a group of deities worshipped around the Mediterranean in the centuries prior to the emergence of Jesus. It has been argued that these deities were closely related and shared many characteristics, most notably being male, partly-human, born of virgins, life-death-rebirth deities and other similar characteristics.

The Egyptian god Osiris and the Greek god Dionysus had been equated as long ago as the 5th century BC by the historian Herodotus (see interpretatio graeca). By Late Antiquity, some Gnostic and Neoplatonist thinkers had expanded this syncretic equation to include Aion, Adonis, Attis, Mithras and other gods of the mystery religions. The composite term Osiris-Dionysus is found around the start of the first century BC, for example in Aegyptiaca by Hecateus of Abdera, and in works by Leon of Pella.

The JesusMysteries – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Freke and Gandy base the Jesus Mysteries thesis partly on a series of parallels between their suggested biography of Osiris-Dionysus and the biography of Jesus drawn from the four canonical gospels. Their suggested reconstruction of the myth of Osiris-Dionysus, compiled from the myths of ancient dying and resurrected “godmen,” bears a striking resemblance to the gospel accounts. The authors give a short list of parallels at the beginning of the book:

Later chapters add further parallels, including Mary’s 7 month pregnancy.

Serapis– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Serapis (Latin spelling, or Sarapis in Greek) was a syncretic HellenisticEgyptian god in Antiquity. His most renowned temple was at Alexandria,[1]. Under Ptolemy Soter, efforts were made to integrate Egyptian religion with that of their Hellenic rulers. Ptolemy’s policy was to find a deity that should win the reverence alike of both groups, despite the curses of the Egyptian priests against the gods of the previous foreign rulers (i.e Set who was lauded by the Hyksos). Alexander the Great had attempted to use Amun for this purpose, but he was more prominent in Upper Egypt, and not as popular with those in Lower Egypt, where the Greeks had stronger influence. The Greeks had little respect for animal-headed figures, and so a Greek-style anthromorphic statue was chosen as the idol, and proclaimed as the equivalent of the highly popular Apis.[2]It was named Aser-hapi (i.e. Osiris-Apis), which became Serapis, and was said to be Osiris in full, rather than just his Ka (life force).

Water into Wine, Tom Harpur

p 242: When it comes to the widespread first-century cult of Serapis, Barb explains: “Serapis is fundamentally Osiris/Horus… and he serves as the expression of monotheistic tendencies: [there is] one god, Serapis,” it says on numerous monuments.

Christ in Egypt, D.M. Murdock

pp 31-32: As in Christianity, within the Egyptian solar religion the sun god’s power is illustrated by the divine qualities of omnipresence, omnipotence and oniscience, typically defining the god of the cosmos within monotheism.  For example, demonstrating his omnipresence, the God Sun is contained in everything, as in the Great Hymn,” which addresses the sun as “you create millions of incarnations from yourself, the One.”6  In a section about the god “Re-Horakhty,” Dr. Assman entitles a selection of hymns, “oOmnipresence of the Light: God-Filled World.’  This material reflecting omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience includes scriptures such as: “Every way is full of your light”; “Are you not the leader on all ways?”; and “There are no limits to the field of his vision and no place hidden to his ka.”1  The ka is defined by James Allen as the “force of conscious omniscience in its worshippers – called in the texts the “sun-folks”3 – as highlighted in this line from a sun hymn: “The morning sun which enables one to know all things.”4

This concept of the “omniscience of light” is part of the “new solar theology” in which “the unattainably distant sun comes palpably near to earth creatures,” providing ” the idea of the simultaneous remoteness and proximity of god…”5 The German scholar next says:

The idea of proximity of god arises not from the sensual experience of light, but from the transcendental idea of a divine omniscience and omnipresence, in which god is right next to the heart “that turns to him.”6

As we can see, the Egyptian concept of God here is highly reminiscent of that found in Judeo-Christianity.  The Egyptian God Sun is also depicted as hearing “the prayers of all who call him.”7

pp 53-54: Regarding the Egyptian and Christian trinities and scriptural parallels, Morenz is prompted to conclude, “The multifarious links between Egypt and Judeo-Christian scriptures and trinitariantheology can already be traced with some degree of plausibility.”5  In his discussion of “Egyptian trinities,” as he terms them, Morenz includes a section addressing the idea of “unity in plurality.”6  The German scholar also points out that a “trinity” can likewise be created out of the “primordial One” and “the first pair of gods to be begotten”7  Regarding the motif of the trinity, Morenz further states:

…thus three gods are combined and treated as a single being, adressed in the singular.  In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology.

Deconstructing Jesus, Robert M. Price

p 26: Egypt presents us with the same picture yet again.  The first attested workers for Christ there were the Gnostics Valentinus, Basilides, Apelles, Carpocrates, and his son Isidore.  Phlegon preserves a letter attributed to Hadrian noting that all Christian priests in Egypt worshipped Serapis, too!  The leading gospels in Egypt, the Gospels according to the Hebrews and according to the Egyptians, as far as we can tell from their extant fragments, were Gnostic or heretical in color.  Bauer could detect no trace of Demetrius.  But does not tradition make the gospel-writer Mark the first bishop of Egypt?  Indeed it does, but like the letters of Jesus and Abgarus, this legend seems to be but another spurious “orthodox” origin for Egyptian Christianity (assuming Mark and his gospel could themselves be judged orthodox!).

pp 26-27: About the Nag Hammadi library – “What makes this discovery all the more astonishing is that associated documents show the collection of leather-bound volumes to have been from the monastic library of the Brotherhood of Saint Pachomius, the first known Christian monastery.  Apparently when the monks received the Easter Letter from Athanasius in 367 C.E., which contains the first known listing of the canonical twenty-seven New Testament books, warning the faithful to read no others, the brethren must have decided to hide their cherished “heretical gospels, lest they fall into the hands of the ecclesiastical book burners.  We may perhaps take that monastery as a cameo, a microcosm of Egyptian Christianity in the fourthcentury, diverse in doctrine, though soon to suffocate beneath the smothering veil of catholic orthodoxy.

Christ in Egypt, D.M. Murdock

pp 23-24: Dr. Richard A. Gabriel in Jesus the Egyptian… tersely recounts this disturbing history:

In 356 C.E. ConstantiusII ordered the Egyptian temples of Isis-Osiris closed and forbade the use of Egyptian hieroglyphics as a religious language.  In 380 C.E. Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the official Roman state religion and all pagan cults were thereafter forbidden.  These edicts were devastating to the Egyptian culture and religion, both of which had been preserved over millennia through the Egyptian language and the writing systems of Egyptian priests.  In 391 C.E., the patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus, summoned the monks to arms and turned them against the city of Memphis and the great shrine of Serapis, the Serapeum, the main temple of the Osiran-Isis religion.  The attack was akin to ordering the destruction of the Vatican.  Egyptian priests were massacred in their shrines and in the streets.  The ferocity of the violence consumed priests, followers, and the Egyptian intellectual elite of Alexandria, Memphis and the other cities of Egypt who were murdered and their temples and libraries destroyed.  The institutional structure of Egyptian religion, then more than four millennium old, was demolished in less than two decades.”

Jung and Typology, Gnosticism and Christianity

The following are excerpts that I thought were related.  I specifically was considering Jung and his views on various ideas.  These excerpts give an interesting context to how Jung came to his understanding about the structure and development of the individual.  In particular, I found fascinating the connection between trinity as representing hierarchy (including hierarchy as development) and quaternity as representing non-hierarchical structure.  By this, it can be shown how the tripartite division of Platonism and Gnosticism relates to Jung’s typology.  I was also thinking about Jung’s consideration of Catholic ideas in terms of his relationship with Father Victor White.  Jung felt the Trinity was incomplete and conjectured that Catholicism was denying a fourth element in its theological conception of evil.


Quodlibet Journal: Volume 4 Number 2-3, Summer 2002
Carl Jung and the Trinitarian Self
Michael J Brabazon

As the alchemists discovered, the spirit Mercurius can be a good friend (as in the Liverpool dream) or the “dark tricephalus”[f], the tempter, deceiver and adversary of the universal hero.  By overcoming the chthonic trinity the saviour not only becomes a demi-god but, in bringing the fruits of his victory to the tribe, ensures the spiritual and physical well-being of mankind. One of the stories from Hindu mythology seems to prefigure the struggles of Buddha and Christ with the Evil One.  In the case of Hinduism the Christ-like person is the son of a Brahman, Tvashiri, who is eventually killed by the god Indra.  Tvashiri, in a bid to outdo Indra, created a three-headed son who possessed wondrous spiritual power which grew at such a rate it promised to absorb the universe.  The three heads had the separate functions of reading the Vedas, feeding himself, and observing all that existed:  a combination of intellectual, physical and divine sustenance – the totality of life.  As in the accounts of the temptations of Christ and the trials of Gautama, the tricephalus Brahman is attacked three times: firstly through seduction by Heavenly maidens; secondly by a thunderbolt thrown by Indra which kills the hero; and lastly by a triple decapitation.  The final onslaught, ordered by Indra because the body continued to glow with the light of spirituality, released a great flight of doves and other birds, symbolising the resurrection of the perfected spirit and is analogous to the enlightenment of Buddha and the defeat of Satan in the wilderness.  The attacks on Gautama by Mara are variations on the same ideas of seduction, attack by the actual god and attack by the god’s henchman.  The Buddha now becomes an enlightened being, losing his old material desires, and brings salvation to mankind.

In the Middle East there existed other notorious examples of the triple heroic test, and cannot be unconnected with the  temptations of Christ.  In ancient Egypt one of the stories of Se-Osiris (reputedly the greatest Egyptian magician) from the 13th century BC show him in psychic battle with the Ethiopian the Son of Tnahsit who is the agent of Apophis, the Egyptian Devil.  As in the other stories, Se-Osiris has to overcome his satanic adversary three times in order to prove himself and gain total victory.  Firstly, the Ethiopian manifests a huge serpent in front of the Pharoah, but Se-Osiris picks up this giant cobra, turns it into a small white worm and throws it out of the window.  Next the evil protagonist summons a large black cloud which resembles the darkness of the tomb or the dark cloud of smoke from burning bodies.  Again, the hero easily decreases the threat to an infinitesimal size and throws it out of the window.  The final threat is in the shape of a sheet of flame moving towards Pharaoh, but the good magician reverses its movement back in the direction of his adversary, who is subsequently engulfed and totally defeated.

Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, writes of the triple life force released by the universal hero upon completion of his struggle with the internal monster; the bestowing of the secret treasure, the Holy Grail:

The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.  The miracle of this flow may be represented in physical terms as a circulation of food substance, dynamically as a stream of energy, or spiritually as a manifestation of Grace.  Such varieties of image alternate easily, representing three degrees of condensation of the one life force.[37]

The hero’s encounters infer a triality of character, with ramifications for typological classification.  Tripartite man is a theme as old as that of the trinity, the two being inextricably linked in the relationship of micro and macrocosmic.  The origin of much of the tripartite formulations is to be found in the works of Plato, originator of the archetype theory of Form or Idea.  Plato’s own threefold division of the soul is into spirit, reason and desire.  It is from these three segments that the layers of society in the utopian Republic are derived: the Guardians, the Auxiliaries and the Plebs.  Broadly, the philosophers, the spiritually enlightened, rule over and guide society, the military types carry out the directives of the elite, applying the rules to the governorship of the materialistic majority.  This hierarchical view of tripartness is counter-balanced by an egalitarian formulation allegorised in the Phaedrus by a charioteer and two horses.  One horse is an expression of honour and modesty whilst the other stands for man’s animal desires, with their unity in the hands of the charioteer, the middle conjoining factor.  The Gnostics use this platonic schema in their soteriological explanations – the saved spiritual type, the pneumatic, the damned materialists, the hylic, and those with the possibility of  choice, the psychic – described in the Jung codex of the Nag Hammadi library.

The multiplication of tripartite theories has produced an overwhelmingly extensive list of variations on the same theme, including Freud and beyond, but I think it worthy of note to mention that it was part of Carl Gustav Carus’ thinking.  I say this because he was one of the old-school of psychologists much admired by Jung.  Interestingly, Dostoyevsky was also a great fan and one wonders if the three Karamazov brothers, Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha, characterising respectively blind social obedience, the human intellect and mystical-propheticism, were not Carus-inspired. 

In Toynbee-like fashion, it does not seem unreasonable to look for the external organisations and trends associated with the different types.  I had initially made a deduction from studies on the history of religious thought that a threefold division could be made along the lines of fundamentalist, developmentalist and prophetic, when I read with interest the post-Jungian division of schools made by Andrew Samuels in Jung and the Post-Jungians[38]: Classical, Developmentalists and Archetypal.  Perhaps a trinitarian view could be taken of the foundation of modern psychology employing the God, Man, Nature schema (or as C S Hall and G Lindzey would have it in Theories of Personality: primordial thought patterns; social interest; and sex) for Jung, Adler and Freud?  Jung certainly had no qualms about such a unity; he could be both Adlerian and Freudian as the need arose (see Memories, Dreams, Reflections).

The fourfold typology posited by Jung was an update of the ancient Greek formulation based on the humours of the body, which makes perfect sense seen from an homeostatic point of view.  However, just as valid is the Vedic counterpart using three humours which also describe three character types, namely kapha, vata and pitta, and restated by the god Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita when he tells Arjuna, “Each has the duty, ordained by his nature, born of the gunas [the threefold, hierarchical hypostases of prakriti]”.  Again, both are inherently logical – and apparently complete – systems, but the latter schema is hierarchical and the former egalitarian.

A real hierosgamos would be if tripartite typologies could be synthesised with the four Jungian types with a resulting twelvefold system[g] satisfying both viewpoints and giving a psychological raison d’etre to the zodiacal system, much beloved by Jung.  He himself hints at a desire to unite his quaternity with the astrological method:

Since the earliest times, attempts have repeatedly been made to classify individuals according to types and thus to bring order into what was confusion.  The oldest attempt of this sort known to us was made by Oriental astrologers who devised the so-called trigons [sets of three star signs] of the four elements, air, water, earth and fire.[39]


James Hillman


A closer look at the way Jung speaks of the types, however, suggests that they too are archetypal.  For what determines type?  Here the a priori element enters: Jung speaks of a “numinal accent” falling on one type or another (§982).  This selective factor determining type is unaccounted for it is simply given.  A numinal accent selects our bias toward what becomes our superior function which drives the others into the background (§984).  We begin to see that the four types are more than mere manners of functioning.  There is something more at work in them, something numinal – and “numinal” means “divine”.  And surely when in the grips of our typical set, as we cannot help but be when we imagine ourselves typologically, the structuring power of the type is like that of an archetype or mythologem.  Especially the experience of the inferior function, also referred to as numinous, brings with it a radical shift of perspective, as if there has been an ontological shift, an initiation into a new cosmos or archetypal seinsweise.

An archetypal background for the four functions has already been intimated by Jung himself.  He speaks of a philosophical typology in Gnosticism or Hellenistic syncretism (§§14, 964) by means of which human beings could be called hylikoi, psychikol, or pneumatikoi.  Jung does not document this typology but Professor Sambursky considers that these terms were applied less to actual persons than to the imaginal persons of Neoplatonism, especially by Plotinus.  These imaginal regions and their beings might thus be the archetypal imagination at work in the functions, giving to them each its nominal accent and each its ontological significance as structuring ground of consciousness.

Then hylikoi, or physis, with its attendant ideas of matter, body, actual physical reality would be the archetypal principle in what Jung called sensation; psychikoi, or soul, with its attendant Jungian description of love, value, experience, relatedness, woman, salt, colour would be the archetype within and behind what Jung called feeling; pneumatikoi, or spirit, with its attendant descriptions in terms of light, vision, swiftness, invisibilities, timelessness, would be what Jung called intuition; and finally, not expressly distinguished in this Hellenistic triad, nous, logos, or intellectus, with its capacity for order and cogni-


tive intelligence, would be the archetypal principle that Jung called the thinking function.  (Jung himself identifies thinking with pneumatikoi, §14.)

This archetypal background gives a deeper sense to what Jung says about the four functions.  For instance, if sensation so often brings with it an uncomfortable inferiority, and intuition, superiority, the reason is not functional, but archetypal – the one being hylitic and bearing all the aspersions put upon physis in our tradition, the other, pneumatic, windy with the idealizations of the spirit. 28  Or, it is hardly a feeling function, as an ego-disposable mode of adaptation through evaluations, which can support such redemptive features that Jung claims for “feeling” (cf. CW 14, §§328-34; CW 16, §488-91; CW 13, §222, and also CW 8, §§668-69 where his discussion of evidence for soul turns on “feelings”), unless we realize that “feeling” has become a secular psychologism for soul. 29

Furthermore, we now can grasp better that connection which Jung makes between the four functions and the wholeness of the “total personality” (CW 14, §261), or Adam (ibid. §§555-57).  For now we would be dealing with the root archetypal structures or cosmoi of Western human being, our four “natures” as Jung calls them (CW 14, §§261, 265; cf. CW 11, §§184-85) which as he says there in Mysterium Coniunctionis, are an archetypal prefiguration of “what we today call the schema of functions”.  The four types are thus not mere empirical

28. Practitioners’ descriptions of the puer psychology of young men often call them “intuitive” and airy, needing “sensation” and earth.  The older language of elemental natures has been unwittingly associated with that of functional types.  Actually, the practitioner is discerning young pneumatikoi whose archetypal basis in spirit cannot be reduced to an over-developed empirical ego-function of intuition.

29. Willeford, “The Primacy of Feeling”, J. Analyt. Psychol.. 21, 1976, pp. 115-133 argues for a special place for the feeling function beyond Jung’s polar equalities.  Because Willeford takes feeling to be the function of the “subjective sphere” (an idea which brings us again to Jung’s early identification of feeling with introversion) he is suggesting that its relation with soul is different and more important than that of the other functions.


functions.  They are the physical, spiritual, noetic, and psychic cosmoi in which man moves and imagines. 30

The ancients placed these cosmoi one on top of the other and fantasied the ideal man moving through them from below to above.  Jung too imagines the individuating person moving through the functions, not ascensionally in his model, yet still redemptively from one-sidedness to four-foldedness.  Although these archetypal powers of the ancients present themselves conceptually, they are nonetheless archetypal persons of the imaginal to begin with.

By this I do not mean to replace intuition with spirit, and feeling with psyche, etc., or to equate them or reduce them.  Rather I am maintaining that the functions have been carrying archetypal projections which gives them, and typology, a numinal accent.  Types conceal archetypes.  The contemporary cult of feeling, for instance, is a disguised psychologistic substitution for cult of soul.  The frequent attack on intellect (metaphysics and theology) through Jung’s writings and letters has resulted in poor critical thinking in the Jungian school because the archetypal principle within thinking has been devalued.  Unless we recognize the imaginal persons in our personal modes of functioning these modes lose their numinal accent.  Only an archetypal appreciation of the functions can take them out of the hands of the ego.   Unless the great root principles of Western man’s orientation are seen for what they are, as the modes in which the imaginal operates (functions) in all realms of being, they, and we, are condemned to psychological jargon without numinal accent.  Thus we must cling to the types for orientation since they do conceal the archetypal natures of our Western compass.


Autumn 1988, Vol.40 No. 3, pp. 249-261.
James Arraj:
      Jungian Spirituality:
           The Question of Victor White


The first level is the simple discovery of our psychological type and its application in the ways just described as an instrument for understanding human differences within the field of spirituality. Of great value, this is the level at which a significant amount of the present encounter between Jung’s psychology and spirituality is taking place.

The second level can emerge from this acquaintance with typology. We begin to perceive that typology is not only interpersonal, a way we relate to those around us, but also an intrapsychic process that is no different from the process of individuation itself. We begin to feel the pull of the outgoing tide that leads to the fascinating and terrible night sea-journey of psychic transformation. It is only by means of such a journey that we truly begin to grasp what typology really meant to Jung and what are the psychic contents that exist under the names of the shadow, anima, animus, and self. It is this experience that will sensitize us to the psychological dimension that exists and must exist in the whole of the spiritual life. There is literally no place for the spiritual life to take place but in the psyche, and we row grasp this psyche in all its immediacy and in all the continual process which strives for wholeness. Here, too, there can be no objection to the employment of Jungian psychology in the spiritual life, but rather only a sense of gratitude that we can finally deal with the psychological dimension that exists in all our spiritual activities.

There is a third level where this encounter will more and more take place and has taken place in certain individuals like Victor White. The process of individuation as it is found in Jung and many of his followers is wrapped in an epistemological fabric which resists a Catholic understanding of faith. It is abundantly evident. Jung himself comments, for example,

For lack of empirical data I have neither knowledge nor understanding of such forms of being which are commonly called spiritual. From the point of view of science it is immaterial what I may believe on that score, and I must accept my ignorance . . . . All comprehension and all that is comprehended is in itself psychic, and to that extent we are hopelessly cooped up in an exclusively psychic world.(6)
Similarly, he indicates that he sees individuation as a more evolved stage of consciousness to which Christianity stands as a deficient stage. If in being guided by Jung to the experience of individuation, we unconsciously imbibe this presentation of it, we will find ourselves in the state in which Victor White found himself — torn on one hand by a living awareness of the reality of the individuation that Jung describes, but sensing that the way it was presented conflicted with his faith.