Was There A Real Jesus? And If So, What Did He Really Say?

Due to the number of questions I’ve received about Jesus, I think a podcast devoted to him is in order.

People addressing this material, from whatever angle, tend to have fiercely held opinions, cherry-picking facts around them. That makes these discussions very difficult, and I’ll do my best to avoid that trap. This is a fascinating subject, and removing dogmatic opinions is what opens it to us.

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Seeking Refuge

Refuge

A good deal of my life has been spent in a half-conscious search for places where a healthy person could function as a healthy person: places where health was accepted rather than resented, where it didn’t have to be hidden.

Such places have proven to be scarce. The healthy man or woman is all too often taken as a threat, rather than a friend to perhaps learn from. This stems from the status obsession that has infested mankind. By it, another person’s health undercuts your value as a person.

Perhaps the most common coping technique for this in our time is for people to overtly condemn anything they can brand as evil. (This is the root of polarized Blue/Red hatred in the US, for example. Each side is obsessed with the sins of the other.) Each time they can condemn evil, people feel they are rising incrementally up a moral status hierarchy. But in so doing, they are centering their minds on evil and corruption, which is toxic.

But please understand that, by “centering on evil,” I do not mean that people are striving to be evil. What I mean, rather, is that they are arranging their minds and lives in reaction to evil. They endlessly uncover, define, catalog, and condemn all the evil in the world, and by doing so, darkness, fear, and threat become enthroned at the center of their minds. They see evil on every side and cannot conceive that a health-centric mind is even possible.

I am fully convinced that this is a devolutionary mentality. At first I grasped at this concept instinctively and intermittently, but now, at length, with some understanding.

Who’s Healthy?

It’s not all that hard to define who is healthy and who isn’t. A healthy person is kind, benevolent, curious, reasonable, and acts with integrity. An unhealthy person is conformist, legalistic, takes advantage of others, and enjoys belittling people and things.

We might add to these lists – and people do move between the categories at times – but I think a basic healthy/unhealthy divide is easy enough to see.

Fortunately for us, far more of us are healthy now than in the old days. Slavery is gone, justifications for cruelty are mainly gone((Justifications for the cruelty of the state remain, but these too are weakening.)), and people are simply better than they were centuries or even decades ago.

For this we should be thankful, but it also remains that millions of people, especially any who are noticeably healthier than their neighbors, are to one extent or another punished for their virtues.

Refuges, Old and New

For all the flaws and abuses of the churches of the West, it is true that churches have often been refuges for the healthy. Operating within a church, or at least by being associated with it, people could do exceptional things without being overly exposed to consequences. This was especially true during the most decentralized periods of Western history, including the eras when great talents were supported by clerics and nobles.

Even in modern times, church has been a safe training ground for exceptional musicians. In church, for example, the great singing voice was treated as a gift from God, rather than a threat to those less gifted.

Radical Christian groups have sometimes served as refuges, but only those that were sharply dedicated to following Jesus, “walking in the spirit,” and so on. Put in nonreligious terms, those pursuits are simply “striving to become healthy.” (Debating doctrines and rules are fundamentally otherwise.)

Some nonconformist groups were refuges as well. You can find coverage of this in issue #16 of our subscription letter.

Many good families have provided refuge of course, but existence apart from the family is necessary too.

The ability to be openly healthy (or at least smart) was often an underlying appeal of the cypherpunks.

The internet, particularly in its early days, provided a safe way to be healthy. It was far more anonymous in those days; as the joke went, “No one on the internet could know if you were a dog.” Anonymous forums now serve the same purpose.

And finally, we now have a large and thriving cryptocurrency community, where talent is welcomed rather than resented. It is therefore no surprise that healthier-than-average people are gravitating toward it.

Last Words

The status model destroys us all by inches, but the healthiest among us far more than others understand. Simply from a species-preservation standpoint, this is a horrible error.

Status, I maintain, is not hardwired into us. I think that’s a false belief, and more than that, I think it’s an excuse. We are better than that, and it’s time we started acting like it.

So, find refuge as you can, my friends, but whether within or without a refuge, strive not to diminish yourselves.

* * * * *

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Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

You’ll Stop Being a Serf When You Do This…

serfdomI hear the same complaints about politicians that you do. And while I understand them (I’ve complained plenty myself), the fact is that complaining accomplishes very little. And there is a very simple reason why complainers have no effect:

Because the complainers keep right on obeying.

As long as you obey, the things you complain about will keep on happening, and there is no way around that fact.

The Proof

This idea that “nothing changes as long as you obey” has a modern proof – that of American blacks in the southern United States. Specifically, between the civil war and Martin Luther King Jr.

King is badly misunderstood. His legacy has become a tool for garnering of political power. He has been turned into a semi-mystical symbol and used by power grabbers of many types.

The real Martin King, however, was a minister who exposed the truth that obedience is serfdom. His crucial synthesis was to combine disobedience with goodness. His crucial work was to hold them together.

What King did is what we must do, if we wish to rise above the modern serfdom that surrounds us.

Blacks suffered for many decades in the American south. They complained endlessly, but the laws were against them and remained against them. A few of the white people around them were sympathetic, and more white people in the north were sympathetic, but everyone obeyed the law and little changed.

Until King came along, of course, with his new strategy of goodness plus disobedience.

King was, above all, a minister. Goodness was paramount to him, and he had a very clear vision of what goodness entailed. And, he became very good at communicating it. King added disobedience to goodness, and combined them with teachings on courage and self-control.

Within a decade or so of using this strategy, things changed in the American south. First, individuals changed. And, after a while, laws followed.

There is far too much to tell of this decade of liberation (we covered the topic in FMP #35), so I will give you some quotes from Dr. King:

Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself.

Most people can’t stand up for their convictions, because the majority of people might not be doing it. See, everybody’s not doing it, so it must be wrong. And since everybody is doing it, it must be right.

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

How to Disobey?

What to do and how to do it are for YOU to decide.

If I were to give you some sort of blueprint, and if you followed it, you’d be falling right back into the same trap of obeying someone else… in this case, me. That would be bad for you and worse for me.

You must decide for yourself what path to take, and you must – inside of yourself – summon the courage to act upon it, without me or anyone else holding your hand.

You must choose and you must act. Until then, your serfdom remains.

But when you do choose and act, you make yourself a free man or woman.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

How I Learned My History

history bookI’ve recently received requests for history book recommendations. I know I’m leaving out a lot, but I think I’ve compiled a good starter list.

So, without further ado:

General Histories (covering large sections of history):

The Evolution of Civilizations, by Carroll Quigley. An excellent look back – all the way to the Ice Age and even further.

The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler. Examines human civilization from its origins to what’s coming next. Chapters 1-10 are a brilliant must read, but the rest of the book is dated and unnecessary.

The State, by Franz Oppenheimer. A serious look at the institution of the State.

The Collapse of Complex Societies, by Joseph Tainter. How centralization has destroyed culture after culture.

Art: A New History, by Paul Johnson. A superb history of art and all that pertains to it, from the beginning of human history.

Specific Periods & Subjects:

The End of the Bronze Age, by Robert Drews. The collapse of 1200 BC is one of the most important events in all of recorded history, yet very few people know anything about it.

Caesar and Christ (The Story of Civilization III), by Will Durant. A masterful history of Rome.

The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 2), by Will Durant. The history of Greece.

The History of Civilization In Europe, by Francois Guizot. An excellent overview of what happened.

The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics), by Hendrik Spruyt. An in-depth look at feudalism and the formation of states in medieval Europe.

War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges. Journalism mixed with some history, but a very important look at the ugly truth about war.

Gunfighters, Highwaymen And Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier, by Roger D. McGrath. A serious analysis of the old American West. See the “wild west” as it really was, not as portrayed on television.

The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization, by Michael Balter. An excellent start on the great archaeological find at Catalhoyuk. (See FMP #37.)

The Leopard’s Tale: Revealing the Mysteries of Catalhoyuk, by Ian Hodder. More on Catalhoyuk. Hodder’s archaeology is excellent, but I find many of his interpretations flawed.

Barbarians To Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered, by Peter S. Wells. How Rome became Europe.

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made, by Norman F. Cantor. How the great pestilence of 1348 AD changed Europe.

The Medieval Underground, by Andrew McCall. Another side of the middle ages.

The Commercial Revolution in the Middle Ages, by Robert S. Lopez. How commerce created Europe.

Smuggling In The British Isles: A History, by Richard Platt. Great stories you won’t find elsewhere.

Conceived In Liberty (4 Volume Set), by Murray N. Rothbard. Four volumes of historical facts on the American Revolution, most of which are hard to find elsewhere.

Escape from Freedom, by Erich Fromm. As much psychology as history but a fascinating look at the industrial revolution and the character flaws it spawned.

A Child of the Century, by Ben Hecht. Hecht was involved in a number of historical events and tells the stories from the inside. Plus, it’s the best autobiography you’ll ever read. The world shouldn’t have forgotten about Ben Hecht.

The Reawakening, by Primo Levi. Levi survived Auschwitz, but that’s not what this book is about. It’s about the end of World War II and returning to life afterward.

The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt. Antisemitism and totalitarianism in 20th century Europe.

Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community, by Spencer Klaw. The fascinating story of the Oneida colony in 19th century New York State.

Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, by Stephen Koch. The seduction of American and European intellectuals by Soviet agents.

In God’s Name, by David Yallop. An investigation into the murder of Pope John Paul I.

Evidence of Revision: The Assassination of America. A DVD set of original footage, interviews, etc. The best material I know on the Kennedy assassination.

Courses:

I’m a fan of The Great Courses from The Teaching Company. These courses are expensive, but they are often on sale. In particular, I liked these:

  • Late Antiquity: Crisis and Transformation
  • Ancient Greek Civilizations
  • The Origin of Civilizations, Parts 1-4
  • The Early Middle Ages
  • The High Middle Ages
  • How The Crusades Changed History
  • The Birth of The Modern Mind: The Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th Centuries
  • Early Christianity: The Experience of The Divine

As I say, I’m missing a lot (half my library is not in front of me at the moment), but this should be a good list to work from.

If you’ve got one, two (or ten) that you think should be added, please feel free to comment below.

Have fun!

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Forgotten Holocaust

genocideThe Armenian Genocide was a systematic extermination that occurred during World War One, mostly in 1915. The killers were Ottoman Turks: agents and soldiers of that government, as well as eager civilians.

The slaughter took place in two phases. First was the wholesale killing of able-bodied Armenian males through massacre and forced labor. Afterward came the deportation of women, children, the elderly and the infirm, on death marches into the Syrian Desert.

All told, perhaps 1.5 million people were killed. The vast majority of these were Armenians, but the Turks also killed large numbers of Assyrian Christians, Greeks, and other minority groups. In many ways – including that of medical experiments on victims – the Armenian Genocide was the direct forerunner of the Nazi Genocide against the Jews.

Here is one miniscule part of the slaughter – a photo taken by an American diplomat, to which he added a commentary:

genocideSource: Wikipedia

“Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms—massacre, starvation, exhaustion—destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation.”

The Test

The test, believe it or not, is whether people will acknowledge this as a genocide or not.

We live, as I have complained many times, in an age where institutions not only reign over money and lands, but also over men’s minds. And, as it turns out, Armenia is not big enough or threatening enough to matter. And so, the institutional line – world-over and even in some shocking places – has been that “we don’t talk about it.”

The Turkish government, desperate to protect its image, has battled long and hard to explain it all away, and to prevent the word “genocide” from being used. Many, many institutions – tossing aside truth for political expediency – have parroted the Turkish line.

genocideA Turkish official, tormenting starving Armenian children with a piece of bread. (Wikipedia)

The Two Biggest Flunkees

Not everyone has flunked the test. Several European nations have made official statements on the Armenian Genocide, as have a few nations on every continent. Wikipedia lists 22 nations in all (out of 200).

What I want to focus on here, however, are the two big failures… places that are supposedly dedicated to an ancient philosophy that would instantly and irrevocably condemn the Armenian Genocide as a top-tier evil.

The first failure is the United States.

In an article I wrote earlier this year, I told how my editor (I was then writing for a major publisher) was made to change history textbooks to cut coverage of this story down to just a couple of paragraphs. The US State Department told him to do so because “we need to keep the Turks happy.” My editor’s bosses sided with the government – as people with government contracts nearly always do. Thus the truth, again, became a casualty to institutions.

The one US President to use the word “genocide” was Ronald Reagan, in a speech he made on April 22, 1981. The current US President, Barack Obama, used the word while a candidate for the presidency, but has repetitively refused to use it since. Again, truth dies where institutions reign.

It is of some interest that Reagan, who was a plebeian – not of the elite – was the one exception. Whatever the man’s virtues or vices, he was far less an institution man than presidents of more recent years.

The second flunkee is Israel. That the victims of the signature genocide would fail to recognize the one just before theirs is nothing short of tragic.

Certainly many Israeli and Jewish groups do acknowledge the Armenian Genocide (such as the Union for Reform Judaism), but the Knesset (the Israeli legislature) decided that recognition of this as a genocide would jeopardize relations with the Turks and the Azerbaijanis.

The reason I call this “tragic” is that by refusing to say “genocide,” the ruling Israeli institution turned its back on the great principle that the Hebrews gifted to the world several millennia ago: The enthroning of justice above rulership.

While many individual Israelis are good and decent people, the rulership of the Israeli state has turned away from the original Jewish principle.

Never Forget

As Adolf Hitler was starting his aggression against the Poles, the London Times quoted him as saying this:

Go, kill without mercy. After all, who remembers the Armenians?

For the sake of decency and for the sake of the future, remember the Armenians.

Also remember that justice stands above institutions and rulers.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Strangest Secret: Why You Should Run Away

why you should run awayOne of the more instructive experiences of my life occurred when was when I was a teenager, barely sixteen years old.

My dad, whom I had previously considered to be incredibly over-protective, put me on a cross-country bus and sent me, alone, to visit my grandmother, some two thousand miles away.

For two straight days I was on my own, surrounded by people I had never met, in places I’d never been, and thrown into situations that I could never have expected. The experience did something to me: I learned about a strange world and how to get along in it, alone, with no one to run to.

The benefits I felt from this trip didn’t have to do with traveling. This wasn’t about getting from point A to point B – this was about wandering through the unknown. And that was an idea that rather bothered me.

During my youth, there was a common idea that moving around was a bad thing. You were supposed to stay in your place unless you had a good reason to do otherwise. People who moved around were considered suspicious and even dangerous. The benefit that I felt from wandering clashed with what I had been taught.

When I returned home from this journey, I returned to the regular American distractions of sports, school, and all the other shiny objects that grab at young people’s minds. But I never forgot the strange feeling that stuck with me from that journey.

Sometime later, I came across a passage in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona:

I rather would entreat you to see the wonders of the world abroad, than,
living dully, sluggardized at home, wear out your youth in shapeless idleness.

That wasn’t precisely what I had felt on my adventure, but it was close. It would be some years before I would travel seriously, but I decided right then and there that I would make it my life’s goal to see the world.

That experience, which I’ve come to call The Strangest Secret, is not unlike Earl Nightingale’s message of the same name. Both concepts lead to a rich and fulfilling life.

Defining the Strangest Secret

At some point after I finished school, my intellectual curiosity bloomed and I began reading in earnest. And as I did, I found out that other people had discovered value in wandering, much like I had. Soon enough I discovered that I had only seen half of the picture – the actual virtue I had felt was about much more than wandering.

Eventually, as my mind matured through study and experience, I began to understand what this strange virtue really was. And then, to my deep surprise, I began to find this odd virtue – commonly considered to be an undesirable trait in my youth – was present in the lives of the greatest men and women of all time.

The first people I found it in were the great spiritual leaders: Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, the Apostles and Confucius. I found it fascinating that all of them partook of the same ritual.

Later I found more religious leaders that had done the same thing: Martin Luther, Jan Hus, Thomas Aquinas, and others.

Over time I learned that the world’s great philosophers and poets had also been initiated into this strange rite; people like Diogenes, Pythagoras, Sappho, Cicero, and the great John Locke.

The great men that shaped Western Civilization also shared in it: Peter Abelard (the founder of modern learning), John of Salisbury (who defined the rule of law), Stephan Langton (the author of Magna Carta), Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and others.

If you keep looking, you even find that many of the world’s greatest authors, musicians and inventors make the same list: Victor Hugo, Daniel Defoe, Frederic Chopin, Leo Tolstoy, John Dos Passos, George Orwell, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla.

Exactly what is this transforming, empowering and strange secret? It is this: The virtue of running away.

“Running Away” as a Path to an Exceptional Life

If you were raised at all like I was, the idea that running away is a virtue will trouble you. I’m sorry about that, but when you find one thing that the greatest men and women of history have in common, you might want to examine it, regardless of how it makes you feel.

None of us lives entirely by ourselves (nor should we), but living with others inevitably leads to a web of expectations imposed upon us, a web that quickly engulfs every aspect of our lives. These people aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong; this is simply what happens among groups of people: they learn to expect things of you, and you learn to expect things of them.

But this web of expectations also locks us in place, and because of it, we too-easily come to see ourselves as playing a certain type of role in life. And this is what the great men and women broke out of. Do you remember how many times Jesus criticized people for being “hypocrites”? What he really called these people was actors – as in playing a role on a stage.

Separation frees us from the roles we’ve grown accustomed to. By running away, you strip off the accumulations of your lifetime and find yourself underneath.

Break Away from the “Web of Expectations”

I’m not telling you to abandon your family, of course; obligations to spouses and children are not things to be tossed aside. But I am telling you that at some point in your personal development, breaking away from your web of expectations is critical. If Moses and Buddha and Abelard and Sappho and Franklin couldn’t release their talents without it, you probably won’t either.

Beside, once you get over the terror of it, you’ll be forever glad that you did. You will reclaim the real you from the expectations – even demands – of the people who have surrounded you. And in time, even those people will probably be glad you ran away. They’ll more than likely freak out at first, but if you come back a better person, they may get to like him or her better than the old, fits-our-expectations you.

I have a friend I’ll call Pete, who desperately wanted to expand his life, but just wasn’t getting any traction. After multiple frustrations, he decided to move himself and his young family – for an indefinite time – from the American Midwest to a small town in the southern US… somewhere entirely different and a thousand miles distant. He contacted an acquaintance at the destination, and asked for some help finding arrangements. He and his wife took a brief scouting trip, and they just moved, without even a clear job offer.

Years later, my friend recounted that it was a frightening adventure, but that without it he never would have clarified his understanding of himself – too much of what he had been doing and thinking was intertwined with the desires and opinions of others. He needed to be someplace where, in the words of an old bluesman, he was “nuthin’ to nobody.” And within a few years the man’s life had indeed changed, and very much to the better.

Somehow, sometime, you need to face the world as “nuthin’ to nobody,” and re-assess who you are.

Maybe the idea of running away still troubles you. If so, that will be your issue to work through – I can’t do it for you and I wouldn’t try. All I am telling you is that there is something very important here, something of pivotal importance to the best men and women of history. What you do with it is your choice.

What places do you want to see in your lifetime?

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

“The Strangest Secret: Why You Should Run Away” was originally published at EarlyToRise.com

Thomas Jefferson: “We Failed”

Thomas Jefferson failedThomas Jefferson – one of my long-time heroes – was convinced that he and his friends blew the chance they had to establish true freedom in America. I know that a hundred thousand self-praising textbooks, speeches, pundits and songs claim that Jefferson and the rest established freedom, but that’s NOT what Jefferson thought, and that is NOT what he said. (You can choose whom to believe for yourself.)

Nearly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence, he was of the opinion that the founders did not fully live up to the moment presented to them.

Here is a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Cartwright on June 5th, 1824. Jefferson’s words are in plain text and my modern paraphrasing of the lines are in italics:

Our Revolution presented us an album on which we were free to write what we pleased. Yet we did not avail ourselves of all the advantages of our position.

The Revolution gave us a shot at real liberty, but we blew it.

We had never been permitted to exercise self-government. When forced to assume it, we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had little entered into our former education. We established, however, some (but not all) of its important principles…

We weren’t prepared for what we had to do.

We think experience has proved the benefit of subjecting questions to two separate bodies of deliberants. But in constituting these bodies, [we have] been mistaken, making one of these bodies, and in some cases both, the representatives of property instead of persons.

We thought our legislative structure would protect us, but they were bought-off right away.

This double deliberation might be obtained just as well without any violation of true principle, either by requiring a greater age in one of the bodies, or by electing a proper number of representatives of persons, or by dividing them by lots into two chambers, and renewing the division at frequent intervals, in order to break up all cabals.

What we really needed was something that would break up parties and factions.

George Washington said almost the same thing about parties, by the way. Here is a section from his Farewell Address of September 17, 1796, with my paraphrasing again:

All combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character…are of a fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction; to give them an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party.

All political groups are fatally dangerous. They gain inappropriate force and displace the will of the people.

A small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

Small groups of clever and dedicated men will corrupt the actions of government, making it serve their own ends.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then address popular ends, they are likely to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to usurp for themselves the reins of government.

No matter if these groups do some good things, they will still take over government.

I think history says that Washington was right; parties did destroy the public good, and continue to do so.

And here’s what Samuel Adams thought about the citizens allowing small groups of men (like parties) to choose candidates for them:

I hope the great Business of Elections will never be left by the many, to be done by the few; for before we are aware of it, that few may become the Engine of Corruption–the Tool of a Junta.–Heaven forbid!

And to confirm the corruption of Congress that Thomas Jefferson mentioned, here is a letter that Samuel Adams wrote to his friend Richard Henry Lee on January 15th, 1781:

Is there not Reason to think that even those who are opposed to our Cause may steal into Places of the highest Trust? I need not remind you that Men of this Character have had Seats in Congress from the beginning.

And just to add one more voice, here is what Benjamin Franklin said to the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787:

I believe, farther, that this [constitution] is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.

There is more that could be said on this subject, but it is almost superfluous. What matters is that we get the primary point:

The best of the American Founders were fully convinced
that their shot at freedom would fail or had failed.

So, what does this say about all those fancy speeches and songs about “the land of the free“?

And if we don’t have freedom, what is it that we do have?

Paul Rosenberg
Thomas Jefferson: “We Failed”
FreemansPerspective.com