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George Borrow, Vasco da Gama and the Zeitgeist

 
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marianneh



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:55 pm    Post subject: George Borrow, Vasco da Gama and the Zeitgeist Reply with quote

George Borrow had a soft spot for the Welsh peasants he met but thought them a bit 'crazed' on religion. It was not religion itself he objected to, but Nonconformity. He had a scarifying encounter with a woman he described as 'a bitter Methodist.' He would chivvy people not to be bigoted, which in his vocabulary meant 'Don't be other than an Anglican.'

Like a headmaster on speed, he interrogated a young courting couple about their place of worship. It was the local hostelry. He demanded to know if they worshipped anything other than alcohol. Yes, they worshipped one other thing they laughed, as they 'leered' at each other. Judging from them, Borrow deduced that the citizens of Wrexham were the worst people in Wales.

If there was one form of supernaturalism Borrow really loathed, it was Roman Catholicism. He was shown a former Catholic nunnery where Owain Glyndwr was thought to be buried. The guide wrongly thought Borrow was admiring the place. Borrow quickly put him right. It had been a place 'devoted to gorgeous idolatry and obscene lust.' 'Papists' were just like Hindus. One group worshipped stones, stocks and the Ganges, the other venerated stones, stocks and holy wells and fountains.

He thought this was no coincidence. He said nuns and friars originated in India as nautch girls, nuns, begging priests and begging Brahmins. The guide laughed in his face but he was making a fair point.

Vasco da Gama and his crew rounded Africa and made for India in search of 'Christians and spices.' The Portuguese abominated Muslims who had colonised the Iberian peninsula but knew nothing at all about Hindus. They believed the yogis they met in India to be Christian monks.

Gaudy Hindu temples looked just like the psychedelic Catholic churches in Europe at that time. Da Gama entered one and knelt before a statue of a goddess holding baby Krishna on her lap. His mistake was understandable. Krishna is the second person of a trinity just like Jesus. In some areas he is called Cristo which is what the Portuguese say for Christ.

One of Da Gama's sailors was beginning to feel uneasy. He was beginning to wonder why so many of the statues and icons of saints showed the with -say-six arms and legs. He warned Da Gama that he might be worshipping 'a false god.' It's a pity the Portuguese ever discovered their mistake. This was the time of the Inquisition. Once they discovered that the Hindus were not Christians, they massacred them with maniacal cruelty.

It's unlikely the similarities between Catholicism and Hinduism were just cosmetic. The Cathars in Europe who had been exterminated as heretics by the Catholic Church, had believed in reincarnation. Thy were often pacifists and vegetarians. They had not believed that Jesus was a flesh and blood person. They sought personal enlightenment like Hindus and Buddhists. And they believed they were the original Christians.

By the late eighteenth century, it was usually possible to express eccentric views on religion without being reduced to homo oxide. Some people expounded the Jesus Myth Theory which was most cogently set out by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy in 'The Jesus Mysteries' published in 1999. Napoleon considered it an open question whether Jesus had ever really existed.

I don't suppose Borrow subscribed to this view, but just stumbled on evidence of global religious syncretism by accident. He does mention somewhere in 'Wild Wales' that the Bible was increasingly seen as a 'collection of old wives' tales.' That this was his own view seems unlikely. It would not be consistent with his opinionated remarks earlier in the book. Or did he just think that religion was useful for keeping peasants and proles in their place?

The 'strange little Ulsterman', C S Lewis was well aware that stories analogous to Jesus' life story could be found all over the world and that they were just myths. He even rewrote the story for children with the saviour role played by Aslan the lion. Yet in the 1920s, he was reconverted to Christianity. In his private writings, he said the other stories were only myths but the Jesus story was 'God's true myth.'

Lewis was descended from a farmer from North Wales. But in his truly dismal books of Christian apologetics, he bullies his readers like the worst kind of Ulster Protestant preacher. None of the soft heartedness of Welsh Nonconformity can be seen. His arguments for believing in Christianity are incredibly poor, just like self parody. You could drive a coach and four through them. He doesn't share his knowledge of the mythical origins of Christianity with his readers.
That would blow the whole gaff.

There's always a possibility that there's a real person or even more than one person behind the Jesus story. But we can know nothing at all about them, as all the preserved material is mythical. Unfortunately, the elegant Jesus myth theory now looks a bit silly. There are reams of evidence to support it. But the 'Zeitgeist' movie gives it treble billing with some ditsy conspiracy theories, and shores it up with some dubious alleged facts.

Now, people will think it's just one more ludicrous conspiracy theory. There are much better sources than 'Zeitgeist.' But I must give the movie credit for its dramatic and arresting presentation .


Last edited by marianneh on Sun Aug 06, 2017 8:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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marianneh



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:58 pm    Post subject: Correction Reply with quote

I meant the Portuguese knew nothing about Hindus.
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marianneh



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:59 pm    Post subject: Correction Reply with quote

I meant the Portuguese knew nothing about Hindus.
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