When one looks about the Neo Pagan community, one common factor that stands out is the constant jockeying of certain individuals/groups to be the learning curve for all other pagans. To my mind this is an attempt to validate ones personal insecurities. For as pagans we should be individuals who are comfortable in the way that we seek our spiritual path.
One cannot be true to and thus accepting of others if we are not true to ourselves first. This is a tenet that separates the individualism of paganism in general and witchcraft in particular, from the tenets of organized religion.
It is interesting to note though that such behavior is unique to Neo Paganism. Not all of those who contributed to the origins of Christianity believe in the concept of “Jesus” as he is portrayed by the organized religions of today.
For instance, the Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist. They are a people called “Mughtasilah”, which translates as, “Those Who Wash themselves”. They are considered to be the “Children of the Books”, and as such, are said to be “holders of the Word of God.” And though they are hostile to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, (Mandaeans regard Christianity and rabbinical Judaism as false religions that, along with the negative influence and/or alignment of planets and stars, impede the soul’s release from bondage.
With the arrival of Islam in Iraq, in 636 CE, the Mandeans were seen as the third “people of the book”, and were thought to be the mysterious Sabians of the Koran. But the Mandeans still encountered a difficult relationship with Islam, and Muhammad is in their writings called the demon “Bizbat”.
The Mandaeans themselves subscribe to the belief that Judas Thomas was Jesus’ twin brother and that it was actually Judas Thomas who was crucified on the cross and that Jesus then lived out his life as his brother Thomas to avoid persecution for his attempted role as the alleged messiah. To support this belief, the early church father “Irenaeus” wrote around 150 CE that Jesus remained on earth as a teacher for some twenty years after his crucifixion, and that John the Apostle served as a conduit for these teachings.
The Mandaeans are an ancient form of Christian Gnosticism, which practices initiation, ecstasy and various rituals that have been said to resemble those of the Freemasons. They very frequently practice baptism in running water and a sort of “confirmation”, is given to the dying. They repudiate idolatry and circumcision, while celibacy is absolutely forbidden. They practice a moral code of charity and goodwill.”
They hold to a planetary influence on the hours, much like Solomon and others of his kind did and they have a seven-day induction of priests, which is similar to the Sabians. Their year consists of twelve months of thirty days each, followed by five auspicious days of epact. At the New Year they keep vigil for the spirits of light to return from congratulating the Supreme Being for creation.
They utter “Ask and find, speak and listen” like the Harranians, but then invoke a formal denial of the powers of the sun and moon contrary to the Sabians. Their calendar is solar while the Harranian one is luni-solar. And amongst the Mandaeans, women may own property, though divorce is not recognized, and a man may have as many wives as he desires.”
The Mandaeans take their name from “Manda” which means secret knowledge.” The Mandaean priests are called “Nasoreans”, as were the followers of Jesus. Within the Mandaean sect, a Nazarean is equated to the same status as an archbishop. During the first three centuries CE, there were certain Mandaean or Johannite sects, especially in the region of the Tigris-Euphrates basin, who honored John the Baptist, not Jesus, as their prophet.
One of these sects still exists to this day in areas of Iraq. According to their thinking, John the Baptist was “the true prophet”, while Jesus was a rebel, a heretic, who led men astray and whom betrayed secret doctrines.” According to the Mandeans, John the Baptist was Hibil-Ziwa. “Hibil-Ziwa was a Savior who entered the world of darkness and destroyed the evil spirits so that the faithful could obtain liberation before the end of the world.”
The Mandaeans tell of the founding of Jerusalem by a powerful and evil female Goddess named Ru Ha. For Jews, Muslims and Syriac-speaking Christians, Ru Ha, signifies the Holy Spirit who is mentioned in both the Quran and the Bible. She controlled the Seven Planets and worked evil on the Earth through several chosen men. They are Abraham, Moses, David and his son Solomon. Her greatest evil however, was realized through the actions of one man. At her temple in Jerusalem, a young priestess was selected to bear a “special offspring”. The name of this priestess was “Miriam”. The Christians call her Mary. She brought forth the “child of Ru Ha”, the “Imunel” (Immanuel) and he were in turn called, “Jesus”.
He was baptized by John and taught at length by him. In time he turned away from John’s teachings and led the people astray, the Mandaeans claim. The Mandaeans say that Mary is a “Daughter of Moses” and that Moses dwelt on Mt. Sinai.
One of the texts of the Mandeans tells a story about the flight of a group called “Nasoreans”, from areas that are today known as Jordan, to the Mesopotamian region, in the times of the Jewish wars following the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE. It is thought that they were driven out by Saul (Paul) himself.
The story goes that Paul arrived as the first Christian missionary in Corinth and in Ephesus, only to discover to his amazement that there were already churches established there. Upon making inquiries he discovered that they were the Church of John the Baptist. Paul believed that the Ephesians and Corinthians would, therefore, be delighted to discover that he represented Jesus Christ, the one prophesied to come after John.
However, contrary to his expectations, they had never heard of such a prophecy.” The following reference is found in the Christian bible: “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when [or after] you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ “John’s baptism, ” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 19:1-5
And so though there is an ongoing and determined effort by the three main Abrahamic religions to be seen as the learning curve for all other beliefs in the world, just as there are certain Neo Pagan individuals/groups who follow suit in regards to Paganism. As individuals it is our responsibility to dig beneath the surface of such popular and often misguided rhetoric, for the truth is that which serves the individual and not that of the masses.
As pagans, our spiritual journey is unique to each of us and cannot nor should not be defined by any one group of folks, regardless of such rhetoric…