Second part: the role of Christianity
In the previous section of the article, we analyzed how in post-Vedic times (after the beginning of the Kali yuga) the cultivation of Knowledge according to the Vedic system became subject to distortion because of the Buddhist movement, and how this development affected the distribution of education in the ancient world. We have also seen that the advent of Christianity completely destroyed the previous system of culture and education, and resulted in the Dark Ages of ignorance, illiteracy and superstition.
But where did Christianity come from?
Christianity originated in Israel/ Palestine from Hebraism – the religion of the Jews as we know it today, established not earlier than 200 BCE and centered on the Temple of Jerusalem.
Jesus was born in a smaller village, but according to his followers, he was a descendant of king David of Jerusalem. In the canonic Gospels, he claims that he was following the Jewish religion and he did not intend to change anything in Hebraism (the Jewish religious law) but simply teach how to apply it in a pure way.
In this regard, it is interesting to note that Hebraism had no system and no interest for the dissemination of spiritual or material knowledge in society. Lay men and all women were supposed to remain illiterate and depend solely on the religious authorities – the rabbis or “masters”. These were “teachers” in the Temple, but they only taught to those who belonged to the priest caste and would become priests in turn. The Jews were organized in a strict birth caste system, in which the Levitic Tribe was the only blood lineage considered worthy enough to act as priests.
The only knowledge they cared about concerned their rituals to be performed in the temple and was contained in their own texts. The rest of the material in the Torah (the old Testament Bible) is/ was mostly about the life of the prophets and some other collated stories meant to celebrate the imperialistic destiny of the Hebrew Nation under the guidance and protection of a jealous and cruel God, who demanded complete allegiance from his worshipers and taught the perfect legitimacy of genocide and slavery for everybody else.
The Hebrew priests claimed to have the power to anoint the Kings and had exclusive access to religious rituals and communication with this God Jahweh, as established first by Abraham and then by Moses, considered the most important “prophets” of the Jewish people.
We do not know exactly when this tyrannical and imperialistic theocratic system began, because these priests removed all previous historical records and documents of the Jewish people that may have existed previously.
In the times of Jesus, this caste of priests had completely taken over the administration of the Temple and the control of society. They were called pharisees. From the records of those times, it appears that the pharisees were very unpopular as they were considered extremely corrupt and evil: the term “pharisaism” is still described in the English dictionary as meaning “hypocrisy”. Similarly, the given meaning of “pharisaical” is “marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness”. This is the result of the prejudice of exclusive birth qualification based on racial/ genetic identification.
Those who have read the Christian Gospels must have noticed that the pharisees were normally associated with the sadducees (the descendents of Zadok, a sub-caste of most of the high priests of the Temple, also considered very corrupt) but especially with the scribes (“those who write”) and with the Sanhedrim.
An inquisitive person may wonder what exactly the “scribes” were writing, as the Jewish society of those days did not put much stock in literacy or written communication among the populace.
From what we see by reading the Bible (Ancient and New Testaments) it is clear that the entire population depended on the priests for the justice system as well as for their “religious” medical prescriptions and everything else.
There was hardly any commerce (again, the Temple was the main marketplace for all commodities and money changing) and all external contacts were based on the Roman administration, that had annexed the region about 60 years earlier.
The answer is simple: the scribes were writing the Bible.
Contrarily to the widespread belief, the Torah (the Old Testament Bible) as we know it was not written by Moses. One passage (Deuteronomy 34) actually says “and Moses was buried somewhere in that region, but the exact location is now unknown”. Also, the text speaks of the Maccabees, historical figures that lived around 100 BCE as per the records of the times. The Hasmonean dynasty founded by them ruled Judea from 164 to 63 BCE, breaking off from the Hellenized Seleucid empire because they hated the idea of honoring the Greek Gods.
The insertion of this episode of the Maccabees – which could seriously compromise the perception of the great antiquity generally claimed for the Bible – is particularly important because it highlights the mentality that the pharisees intended to inculcate on the Jewish people.
In the same line of thought, we can easily theorize that the Maccabees’ revolt was the actual spark for the compilation of the present Hebrew Bible and ideology. Still today, the festival of Hanukkah (probably the most famous and important among the religious observances of Jews especially in the United States) celebrates the entrance of the Maccabees into Jerusalem and the re-dedication of the Temple. According to tradition, they could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain the Menorah, the lights continued to burn for 8 days, until more pure oil could be procured.
The name “Maccabee” is considered an epithet of Judah (the first of the Maccabee brothers) and derives from the Hebrew machabi, meaning “hammer” with reference to his ruthlessness in war.
The end of the Maccabees’ dynasty in 63 BCE was caused by the occupation of Palestine by the Roman general Pompey. The pharisees made a political alliance with the Romans, patiently waiting for the time when they could revolt against them – as they did a few decades later, a move that caused a ferocious revenge by Rome: the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, and all the Jews were either killed or dispersed outside Palestine (this deportation is called diaspora) in 70 CE.
Around the times of Jesus, the scribes and pharisees were actually writing the Torah (also by using pieces from a collection of previous texts from different traditions) with the purpose of building a strong theocratical society, that was going to be under the command of the upcoming Messiah (“the expected king and leader of the Jews”) and was strictly controlled by the caste of the priests of the Temple.
In order to create a paramilitary society, the scribes and pharisees needed to build an extreme racial pride and to eliminate the value of the individual, to glorify violence and conquest and eliminate the value of love and the natural joys of life, to exalt blind obedience and eliminate the natural sense of ethics and human conscience. Therefore they created the figure of Abraham, the first patriarch, who pledged allegiance to Jahweh, cutting all other cultural and ethical values, ready to kill his own only child to prove his blind obedience to God’s commands, and therefore earning the supreme prize of total domination on the entire world for himself and his seminal descendants. And over and above all, the theocratic regime would revere a tyrannical, revengeful, jealous and cruel God called Jahweh, who did not tolerate any dissent, disobedience or competition, and ordered his priests to control society both materially and spiritually in a very fanatical (“fundamentalist” way). Whether this Jahweh actually existed or not, and who exactly he was, is not relevant to this discussion.
Neither is whether the presently popular figure called Jesus actually existed or not, and who exactly he was, or what he actually believed, practiced and taught to his followers, or how exactly Christianity came to be established in the Roman empire by “the apostle” Paul of Tarsus. We hope we will be able to do that in some other publication.
Here we will simply analyze how Christianity established a total political control over ideology and culture, first by destroying all previous knowledge, and then by building their own academic system. The new religion created by Paul of Tarsus was very appealing to the ignorant masses in Rome, as it presented a new God – Jesus – who had incarnated recently and had promised to return soon to personally rule over the world, provided that his followers had materially purified the territory by eliminating all opposition, by conversion, by sword and by fire.
Also, we will skip the discussion on the actual motivations and beliefs of Paul/ Saul in establishing his new religion, because it would require a very patient and elaborate reconstruction of his life, with all his movements and actions and their results, and a deep analysis of the historical period.
Thus we will move directly to the point in time when Paul’s Christianity has taken roots in Rome, to observe the effects of this “Christianization” over the culture and education in those times. Some time after Paul’s death, emperor Constantine tried to bring the Christian movement under control by legalizing it and putting himself at its head, but his plan backfired and he actually had to escape from Rome and go to build a new capital for himself in Turkey (called Nova Roma, later known as Constantinople, Byzantium and Istanbul) and a new empire (the Eastern Roman Empire).
Rome itself and the Western Roman empire remained in the hands of the Christians, who rampaged, destroyed, killed and burned all traces of the previous “pagan” civilization, not only temples but especially all libraries and universities, and persecuted, tortured and killed all the intellectuals and scholars. The city lost a great part of its population, because many people fled out in the countryside and went to hide in villages – pagos – where they could somehow survive as “pagans“, a word that became a synonym for “non-Christian”.
The Eastern Roman Empire quickly fell under the Christian control, too, and the destruction continued in its territories as well. In 361 the new emperor Julianus tried to stop the madness but he was assassinated in 363, and the next emperors were totally controlled by Christians. By 450, the entire cultural system that preceded Christianity was physically destroyed all over the area of the ancient Roman empire, including Greece and the middle east.
Any association with its remnants was illegal and prosecuted by law. Not one single temple or university remained; the structures were demolished and used as quarries for construction material, or turned into churches. Even the woods were razed to the ground to prevent people from gathering in their shelter to speak and practice the ancient knowledge. Anything that even remotely reminds people of the ancient spirituality was persecuted – including medicine and hygienic practices, and all books on all subjects. Only a handful of written texts miraculously escaped from the destruction, hidden in secret rooms or buried under ground.
Normal people fled from the cities and dispersed in mountains and isolated villages to escape the tyrannical and violent rule of the bishops and priests.
This is called the “Dark Ages” of Europe, precisely because all ancient knowledge was lost. Even after the complete christianization of the empire, the relentless persecution of any vestige of the ancient culture continued with the persecution of “heretics and witches” and the forced conversion of other peoples that did not belong to the erstwhile Roman empire, starting from 532 when inquisitor Iannis Asiaticus led a crusade against the “gentiles” (“non-Jews”) of Asia.
The takeover of government and society by the new religion destroyed its fabric, not only in regard to culture and knowledge (including scientific knowledge), but also in regard to the situation of the law and order.
Since the only qualification required to be “a citizen in good standing” was the ideological allegiance to Christianity, the worst criminals could easily make a brilliant career in the government and in society, provided they showed sufficient religious zeal for “Christ” and his “representatives”. In the same way honest, ethical, capable, competent, intelligent and expert persons were ousted, persecuted and even killed if suspected of dissent or criticism against the established “religious authorities”.
This was the only cause for the fall of the Roman Empire. The “barbaric invasions” were an effect – and not a cause – of such fall: once the Roman garrisons at the borders had vanished, nomadic groups and then armies of migrants eagerly descended towards Rome, hoping to get a slice of the famous pie of wealth and culture that had been Rome’s legend for almost 400 years.
After the rise of Islam in the Arabian peninsula and its conquest of vast regions in the middle east, in India and in the Mediterranean itself, the power of the christianized Europe consistently waned. The entire region became isolated and impoverished economically, and suffered famine, degradation and deprivation. The Muslims came to control not only the lands (up to France, south Italy and Hungary) but the sea as well – as aptly put by one chronicle writer named Ibn Khaldun, “the Christians could not float a plank on the inland sea”.
While invading and ruling some parts of India, the Muslims destroyed libraries and universities very much like the Christians had done in the Mediterranean, but as in those times they were in general more business-like than blindly fanatical, they realized the objective value of some forms of knowledge – especially mathematics and medicine, but also architecture and applied physics – and sent some books back home for the benefit of their countries of origin. This is how, for example, the decimal system of numeration has come to be known as “Arabic numbers”, when in facts it was originally existing in India.
The fall of Jerusalem in 1070 to the Turks scared pope Urban II, and in 1095 he proclaimed the first Crusade, promising “the warriors of Christ” total forgiveness for all their sins and remission of all material debts. The first Crusade failed miserably and was followed by several other waves.
Without digressing on the history of the Crusades, we can say here that the Christian knights and the merchants who followed them around the Holy Lands realized that the Muslims and the Jews were at an advantage over the Christians because of the (relatively) greater culture, technology and discipline they possessed.
Thus the Church decided to create a new academic system that would be strictly controlled by it, and that would prepare scholars who could defeat the knowledge that had already started to circulate back in Europe.
The first universities in Europe started as Scholae Monasticae (“schools of/ for monks”), aimed at training priests, government officers, lawyers and physicians that would remain strictly loyal to the Church of Rome. All the students received the clerical tonsure and were only subjected to the ecclesiastic legal authority and not to the authority of the King or any other government agency. The passage from Schola monastica to University (universitas magistrorum et scholarium, or “universal community of teachers and scholars”) was specifically characterized by the creation of teachers’ guilds that acquired a certain organizational autonomy from the parishes on which they initially depended. The first of such universities was recognized in Bologna in 1088, followed by those of Paris in 1150, Oxford (1167), Valencia (1208), Cambridge (1209), Salamanca (1218), Montpellier (1220) and Padova (1222).
The official language of all universities was Latin, even if the students – coming from all parts of Europe – were divided into “nationes”. At the University of Paris these were France, Normandie, Picardie and England-Germany, which also included the students from Scandinavia and eastern Europe.
After attending the preliminary courses (trivium: Latin grammar, rhetoric and dialectics, and quadrivium: arithmetics, geometry, music and astronomy) the students proceeded to further degrees of specialization, importance and glory consisting in the studies of arts, natural philosophy, medicine, canonic law and theology. Naturally all these subjects were based on the notions contained in the Bible – old and new Testament, and on the writings of the “Fathers of the Church”.
It was pope Onorius IV (1286-1287) who inaugurated in the West the study of oriental languages and precisely Hebrew, Greek and Arabic. He had been a student at the University of Paris before entering the diplomatic career at the service of pope Clement IV (1265-1268), who sent him to celebrate the crowning of Charles d’Anjou as King of Sicily.
After becoming pope, Onorius introduced the new curriculum (Studia linguarum) aimed at building the linguistic knowledge required to understand the original texts of the Old and New Testament and the coranic texts, that were the theological, ethical and philosophical foundations of the scholars that in those times were not subject to the Church of Rome: Jews, orthodox Christians and Muslims.
The knowledge of Greek would also be utilized to analyze those rare relics of the classical antiquity that were resurfacing here and there in the hands of a new generation of people interested in literacy. In fact, the papacy had appropriated a collection of the ancient texts that were forbidden for the general population, and amassed them in the famous secret Vatican archives, where they are still hidden. Of course the purpose of such studies was not to learn from them about better ideas, but to understand how to fight against the opponents and competitors – the enemies of the Church.
The Ecumenic Council of Wien (1311-1312) recognized the importance of Onorius’ strategy and encouraged the creation of suitable departments in all the other European universities. It is important to remember that such universities were strictly under the complete control of the Church of Rome.
We can see here the naked purpose of the mainstream “western” academic system, right from its inception. Its motivation and inspiration has always been about “learning knowledge to oppose the knowledge”, or in other words, controlling and manipulating the search for knowledge, and using it for political purposes.
This approach continues to remain even today, and it is totally opposite to the Vedic approach, that subordinates the administration of society to the free and progressive cultivation of objective knowledge as a value in itself – and indeed, the fundamental purpose of human life.
This politicization of knowledge in the western system (that has also been established in India for the last 300 years) starts from the very beginning of the educational system, in which the students must completely submit to the established process of brain-washing and brain-shaping in order to be validated by the teachers. Students are not allowed to ask difficult questions, and any “difference” of thought is punished in a variety of ways. Non-conformist theories are persecuted, and when the evidence of facts supports the non-conformist theories, the evidence is dismissed, hidden, or ridiculed.
It is interesting to note that teachers, too, are subject to the same politicized system: if they ask difficult questions or raise objections against the established version, they are fired and not only from one Institution – from the entire “academic fraternity” (or academic mafia, we should say). By examining the order of decreasing importance in the original curriculum of the early universities established by the Church of Rome, we can clearly understand how they were aimed at controlling the population.
The highest degree of specialization was theology, which of course speaks volumes about where the allegiance of all “scholars” was supposed to go, and which type of mental structure was desired. Those who graduated as “doctors in theology” were obviously going forth to become priests, cardinals or popes: the most intelligent and clever of the batch, who also had to be expert in the knowledge of canonic law, medicine and all the rest.
The second tier from the top was for the lawyers and notaries – who controlled the general population through law-making, politics, counseling to the powerful and wealthy, and even watching and controlling the general mass of the population by reading and writing their documents and sporadic correspondence for a fee.
The third tier was for the physicians or medical doctors. The Church carefully and ruthlessly eliminated all competition through constant witch hunts targeting mainly midwives, that in ancient times had been healers, advisors and experts in many fields of knowledge. Midwives knew not only how to ease the pains of birth (a practice severely condemned by the Church, who wanted childbirth to be as painful as possible according to the Bible’s teachings) but they were also expert in contraception, general pain relief, herbal medicine, all forms of natural medicine and even the use of psychotropic substances.
The “officially certified physicians” shaped by the Church-controlled university system wiped away all such important knowledge as “superstition and witchcraft”, banned any scientific research, and closely cooperated with the priests and the lawyers to convince the patients to donate their wealth to the church.
With the Protestant reformation started by Martin Luther in 1520, a vast region of Europe rebelled against the power of the Church of Rome – England, Germany, Holland, etc – claiming the right for the individuals to read the Bible and have a direct personal relationship with God without the interference of priests.
Apart from England and Great Britain, this Protestant movement deflated the demand for professional theologians, and the academic institutions in their region started to focus on more practical issues – not only medicine, but also architecture, engineering, sciences (such as physics, chemistry etc), history and anthropology, agriculture, economy and so on. The separation between science and religion became deeper and deeper, and the study of philosophy turned into the study of the history of philosophy, considered as a series of intellectual speculations on the nature of reality that were rather irrelevant to reality itself.
Each “great thinker” then came to be studied as an authority in himself, the leader of his own “school of thought”, where all such opinions were equally worthy of being studied “objectively”. The result of this Protestant approach was to deny the actual existence of Truth, as “one truth legitimately opposed to another truth”, in practice means there is no actual truth.
So just like the various sects of Protestants thrived and multiplied according to the various inclinations of the people, similarly the philosophical schools mushroomed to cover all possible perspectives of reality, but not in the attempt to create a unique multi-dimensional vision (as we have in the Vedic system), but to create a sort of “supermarket of ideas” where one could choose his own allegiance and become a follower of the Great Man he liked best among the other “certified philosophers”.
This tendency will be reinforced later by the French Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, followed by the development of the “secular” intellectualism. In Great Britain, however, the theological game was still on because the Anglican Church had merely substituted the Roman Church as the source of temporal power, although in that case it was the King or Queen who occupied the highest position of religious power.
We will see the effects of this approach in the colonial period especially in India, with the academic system created by Thomas Babbington Macaulay (1800-1859), first Legislator Lord under the General Governor of India.
In a 1836 letter to his father, Macaulay wrote, “It is my belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence… No Hindu who has received an English education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion.”
Before him, William Carey (1761-1834), founder of the Baptist Missionary Society, published in 1792 the volume An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens. To further his mission, he started to study oriental languages and with the help of one Pandit Mrityunjay he compiled a series of dictionaries of the local Indian languages.
From his Serampore Mission press, near Calcutta, he printed over 200, 000 Bibles in 45 Indian and oriental languages (including Oriya, Hindi, Tamil, Sikh, Parsi, Sindhi, Nepali, Armenian, Afghan, Gujarati, Bhutani, Javanese, Siamese and Sinhalese) and started to train a group of “Christian pundits” who studied the Vedic scriptures to refute and oppose them. He also started the publication of school texts for the Fort William College and for the Calcutta School Book Society, as well as the first monthly magazine and then the first daily newspaper in Bengali, starting from 1818. His organization also produced the paper for the printing.
We can clearly see in such efforts the blatant demonstration of the purpose and logic of the academic approach: to control the minds of the masses by deliberately spreading misinformation and confusion.
The British missionaries did not invest much in inquisitorial methods (like the Catholic Portuguese did) but nevertheless their methods worked, mostly thanks to the vicious Aryan Invasion Theory, that was specifically intended to transform the higher classes (or “castes”) of Hindus into “long lost cousins” of the Europeans, also belonging to a fabled “indo-european race” that had originally brought civilization to India.
Charles Grant (1746-1823), president of the East India Company, was an ardent activist of the Evangelic party led by William Wilberforce (1759-1833). Under his protection Claudius Bucchanan arrived in 1790 at Calcutta; Bucchanan was convinced that God had delivered India into the hands of the British for the only purpose of christianizing the Hindus, liberating them from “the yoke of the dark and degrading, monstrous and absurd superstitions of their native faith.”
This was to be done through the introduction of the “western” type of academic system.
In 1797 Charles Grant wrote a libel entitled Observations on the State among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain, particularly with respect to morals and means of improving them, in which he clearly expressed his intention to introduce to India a strictly Christian school system aimed at demolishing Vedic culture.
His Evangelist fellow A.H. Bowman wrote, “Hinduism is a great philosophy which lives on unchanged whilst other systems are dead, which as yet unsupplanted has its stronghold in Vedanta, the last and the most subtle and powerful foe of Christianity.” This hostile approach was obviously inspired and supported by the university academics, still heavily under the control of Christianity.
Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860), graduated in Medicine at the St Thomas Hospital, arrived in India as assistant surgeon with the East India Company and became secretary (from 1811 to 1833) and then director (from 1837 to 1860) of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. He translated the Meghaduta by Kalidasa and the Vishnu Purana, then in 1819 he published the first English-Sanskrit dictionary and helped Mill to compile his famous historical treatise. He was the first to obtain the post of Professor for the Boden Chair of Sanskrit at Oxford in 1833 and he immediately announced a prize of 200 sterling pounds for “the best refutation of the Hindu religious system”.
After him, the Boden Chair went to Sir Monier-Williams (1819-1899, author of the most famous and still popularly used Sanskrit/English dictionary), who wrote, “For what purpose then has this enormous territory been committed to England? Not to be the ‘corpus vile’ of political, social, or military experiments; not for benefit of our commerce, or the increase of our wealth – but that every man, woman and child, from Cape Comorin to the Himalaya mountains, may be elevated, enlightened Christianized… When the walls of the mighty fortress of Brahmanism are encircled, undermined, and finally stormed by the solders of the cross, the victory of Christianity must be signal and complete.”
The missionary Alexander Duff (1806-1878) founded in Calcutta the famous Scottish Churches College, which he envisioned as a “headquarters for a great campaign against Hinduism.” He trained students from the wealthy classes of Indian society and possibly from the “high castes” to learn the language and ideals of the colonial government, thus shaping the impressionable minds of the youngsters into the firm belief in the superiority of Christianity and European civilization, for the purpose of creating an intermediate class of “brown sahibs” that would control the native masses for them.
The cultural battle against Hinduism was well beyond the scope of the British colonial government: the christianization of the entire world was presented as “the white man’s burden” – the duty and mission of each European.
Amongst the many others, Baron von Bunsen, ambassador of Prussia in England, dreamed about converting the entire world to Christianity. His protegé Fredrich Max Mueller (1823-1900), born in Dessau (Germany), studied Sanskrit at Leipzig and translated the Hitopadesa before arriving in England in 1846. He was introduced to Macauley and obtained from the East India Company the task to translate the Rig Veda into English – 4 shillings a page.
After settling in Oxford, Max Mueller translated many other texts and wrote the encyclopedia The Sacred Books of the East (50 volumes, started in 1875). He wrote, “This edition of mine and the translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent… the fate of India, and on the growth of millions of souls in that country…. the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years… and that is of a more degraded and savage character than the worship of Jupiter, Apollo or Minerva… It may have but served to prepare the way of Christ… India is much riper for Christianity than Rome or Greece were at the time of Saint Paul.”
Max Muller was particularly irked by those scholars who, instead of devoting themselves to this “evangelic mission”, committed the mortal sin to sincerely appreciate Vedic knowledge: one who did that “should know that he can expect no money; nay, he should himself wish for no mercy, but invite the heaviest artillery… to condone Brahminical idolatry and to discountenance Christianity is to commit high treason against humanity and civilization.”
This powerfully biased academic system established in India was subtly enforced on the higher classes of Indian society mostly through the infamous Aryan Invasion Theory, that is still presented as historical truth by the mainstream academic system.
However, we can still see that even those Hindus who have rejected the Aryan Invasion Theory and are most vocal against all foreigners and “westernization” of India still suffer from a serious cultural inferiority complex towards the western academic system, or in any case, they continue to take it seriously.
In the third and last part of the article we will examine the development of the academic system in the west with the rise of secularism and socialism.