The Roman Empire continues to decompose rapidly-but not rapidly enough for the resisters. Every year brings new surprises; every season more springs pop, more wheels get jammed. But the artificial worm lingers on, and it keeps on lingering far too long for any resistance movement to remain what it was.
It must be remembered that machines have the perverse ability to do the same thing the same way for as long as they operate. The ability is built into machines. But people do not have this ability. They change, they die, they are replaced by others who perceive and behave differently.
The early resisters have some clear and powerful conceptions; the generations that follow them eventually invert every one of these conceptions and turn the initial commitment on its head.
In retrospect we can see that the paths of betrayal are already paved before anyone has recourse to them, but this tells why the betrayal follows these paths, not why the betrayal takes place.
I think the explanation is to be sought in the Leviathan first, and only secondly in the baggage inherited by the initial resisters.
The Leviathan places human beings in a situation they do not meet anywhere else in the Biosphere except in rare places like Sumer. In Sumer, the weather dried the fields up or else washed them away, not once or twice in a lifetime, but over and over again. Nowhere else, not in lands that border on ice nor in lands that border on sand, does Nature force human beings to become mirror images of their disasters. The Leviathan places every person it can reach in such a situation. Its tribute collectors, recruiters, procurers, rapists and cheaters beat on people with the regularity of a clock, forcing them into constant defensive responses which gradually also take on the regularity of a clock.
The rebels who take part in the feasts of Agape, in the festivals of rebirth and rejuvenation, suddenly or gradually withdraw from tasks expected of them by the guardians of Roman order.
The State responds to this withdrawal by maligning, persecuting and incarcerating resisters, even forcing some of them into arenas with unfed lions for the amusement of the circus crowds.
The resisters try to protect themselves by forging links outside the Agape feasts, even by seeking protectors among the guards. This is understandable in view of the persecution, but we can already see, with hindsight, that such links, which do not grow out of love and are not based on sharing, will in time form a noose which will strangle the initial commitment. The resisters are forming links which will bind them into what militants of our day will call The Organization.
Initially the rebellious visionaries were at one with every life-affirming strain, and they apparently borrowed freely from all of them. But as soon as they define themselves as Christains, they have to make it clear, to their patrons and to themselves, just how they differ from the followers of Moses, from enthusiasts of Mithra, from celebrants of Isis, Osiris and Serapis. And as soon as they make this clear, they have ton convince themselves that their own group has the most valid or the truest conception; if another group had it they would not have very good reasons for remaining Christians.
Once they turn away from other resisters, it does not take the Christians long to turn against them. The Christians are no longer at one with every life-affirming group. First they turn against the way others affirm life, gradually they turn against life.
At this point they find ready-made formulas--the paths paved for them by forerunners. "There shall be no other gods before me." This puts an end to Isis, Osiris and Serapis. The Christians add insult to injury by calling former friends Idolaters. This is shouted in extremely bad faith. The Christians know perfectly well that Isis and her brother are powerful symbols of primordial events, symbols which the Christians have attached to their own Jesse, whom they now call Jesus. They are shouting Idolatry without looking into their own baggage, without seeing that the abstraction they've inherited from the old Book, the King of Kings, the abstraction of Lugalzaggizi, symbolizes nothing primordial or even natural. They are shouting Idolatry without remembering that they are the ones lugging around an Idol to every part of the world.
The Organization seems to have its own logic. Some members are better than others at explaining away the ido in their closet, and these quickly become the Sheperds; the title of those who do not explain things so well is obvious. Soon there's talk of shepherds who mislead their flocks, of false prophets. But who can tell which prophet is false? Only the most conscious of the Shepherds; these are now called Presbyters and Deacons. But even Deacons err, and their errors can only be spotted by a Deacon of Deacons, a Bishop.
Each group of participants in an Agape feast becomes a Church. The past engagements of many of these Christians predispose them to accept some kind of hierarchic arrangement. They had though of Osiris as a Leader with Apostles. Many of them had thought of themselves as followers of the leader Moses.
Even so, to many of them the Churches are starting to look like provinces of the Roman Empire; all that missing is the Emperor. And an armored Roman who manages to rise to the post of Bishop now announces that the groupings are real churches only if their bishops are "appointed by Peter and Paul;: he means by a self-appointed spokesman for Peter and Paul, like himself.
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The resisters' descendants have backed away from the monster's mirror image into its jaws. Many of them know it, and the shepherds have to prevaricated quickly and sharply in order not to lose their flocks. They borrow Darius's trick of wearing Ahura Mazda as an outer garment. The Hierarchs present themselves as the door to salvation. But everyone can see that the hierarchs lead nowhere, that they maintain themselves in power over congregations just like Roman officials.
So the Church officials borrow another trick from the Persians. They locate Salvation in the realm of the dead. And who can be sure the Bishop is not the door to such a salvation?
The church will go far along the same road, but already there are resisters who dissociate themselves from Christians for the same reasons earlier resisters withdrew from Imperial Rome.
Visionaries called Gnostics reject all attempts to organize counter-monsters in order to oppose the monster that shackles the world. They say the Archons, especially the Archon of Archons in the old testament, do not only enslave the body but also hold captive the spirit of human beings, encase the spirit in armor, put people to sleep. The Gnostics aim to remove the armor, to wake from sleep, and they insist that such awakening can only come if one remembers the primordial events that gave rise to the monster, not if one forgets.
In Anatolia, where Cybele once danced, the spirit of the initial resistance is kept alive and deepened by a large circle around prophetesses Priscilla and Maximilia and a man called Montanus. These people are convinced the empire is falling dand do all they can to help it fall quickly, going so far as to refuse to produce children for the Roman legions and plantations. They interpret "the kingdom of god is within you" to mean that every man as well as every woman is a potential visionary. They will later be liquidated by the Christian Church for their failure to repress the humanity of women. The official Christians do not acknowledge this group's prophetesses, and refer to the group as Montanists, after the man. Those in Prscilla's circle consider the lies and compromises of the official Christians abominations and are convinced such Christians will find Paradise neither in this world nor in any other.
Many other resisters turn away from the Romanization of the Christians. Some rejoin the circles around Isis and continue to affirm and experience the joy of Earth's generation and regeneration.
Others are drawn to the visions of a man called Mani, who embraces the liberating insights of Buddhists, Zarathustrians, Gnostics and early Christians, but rejects the Old Testament and its Leviathanic god. Mani's formulations spread from Persia throughout the Roman Empire and as far eastward as the Chinese wall, but Mani himself falls victim to the Shahanshah, the King of Kings of a reconditioned Persian Empire.
The Parthian Empire fizzled out when the legions led by Roman Trajan, and then those dispatched by Roman Marcus Aurelius, sapped Parthia's last strength. The vacuum was not filled by Zarathustrian light, but by the army of a Persian called Ardashir, grandson of Sassan, who proclaimed himself King and later Shahanshah by the grace of Ahura Mazda.
It is in this context that Mani, a young Zarathustrian familiar with Greek philosophy and with various strains of the resistance movement in the Roman world, experiences a vision. He sees the wealth and power of the new Persian rulers as gifts of light-devouring Ahriman, not of Ahura Mazda.
Hounded out of Persia by the Zarathustrian priesthood he exposes, Mani finds refuge among Indian Buddhists who confirm what he already knows, namely that the Leviathan is not the ultimate reality, that it is no reality at all.
Mani returns to reconditioned Persia during the more tolerant reign of King Shapur, but he can see that the people loved by Zarathustra, the seed planters and harvesters who celebrate Earth's life-giving powers, are the most oppressed people in the realm, subject to unbearable land taxes, personal taxes, forced labor and military recruitment.
Mani does no reconcile himself to the dark Leviathanic world. He's convinced that light will prevail, even if fourteen hundred years of unceasing fire are needed to burn the monster down. King Shapur's successor Vahram imprisons the aging rebel, and established Zarathustrian priests have him murdered in prison.
* * *
West of Persia, the vast shell still called the ROman Empire comes so undone from its human contents that the huges sprawl literally loses all rhyme or reason.
The armored legions, with all their advanced technologies, still overrun the provinces from one extremity to another, but the legions are no longer limbs of the artificial worm; they, too have come loose; they function for not other purpose than their own.
The monster no longer has a head, since the metropolis itself had been reduced to merely another province, merely another object for plunder for the most powerful legion.
Emperor Severus Septimus parades the head of his predecessor in Rome, but the viewing of such a spectacle is the only privilege still available to those who live in the capital. The Senate has long been a powerless relic. Laws are made and implemented by Praetorian guards and military strongmen recruited form other provinces.
Christians and other resisters are persecuted. Freeholders are squeezed into debt and reduced to the same status as the slaves: they are serfs on Latifundia owned by absentee military heroes.
Emperor Carcalla imposes yet another burdensome tax by calling all subjects Citizens and therefore accountable for citizenship tax, payable in kind by serfs.
The activity of the whole enserfed population goes to feed the hated legions, and the central aim of each legion is to raise its strongman to the post of Emperor.
The inner putrefaction of the Roman Leviathan is so advanced that none can grasp why this monster still stands. There are no longer poets or architects who ornament the brutality. The only thoughts expressed are the thoughts of resisters. The only thoughts about Rome are speculations about the agency that will at long last topple the lingering carcass.
The agency that actually toplles the already decomposed Roman Leviathan takes the form of federated tribes who issue out of the Eurasian steppes. These tribes are not provoked into mtion by Rome alone but by the entire Leviathanic complex that now stretches over Eurasia's southern half.
In China, peasants inspired by Tao, the Way, dress up in yellow turbans, arm themselves with any tool that can serve as a weapon, and try to drive Leviathan out of their part of the world.
While Chinese occupiers of the Tarim Basin return to China to repress the peasants, the occupiers' armored accomplices hasten to replace the former occupiers and overrun the lands of communities of Hsiung-nu. Many Hsiung-nu stay on their home grounds and defend themselves; their descendants will overrun China itself three or four generations later.
Other Hsiung-nu flee westward. They will be called Huns when they reach the borders of Rome.
During the reign of Severus Septiums and his successor, these Huns form federations with Alans, Goths and other Steppe peoples and attack the caravans that move between Rome and the Tarim Basin; it is possible that they hold ancient grudges against the cheating merchants who lead these caravans, but we will not know.
The attacks of the Steppe peoples and the counter-attacks by Roman and Persian armies et off waves of motion in every part of Eurasia. Goths, Alans, Huns and others turn up on the northern borders of Persia, in Anatolia, even in Thrace by sea. Franks federated with Turkic-speaking Alans invade the Gallic provinces known later as France and Spain.
These people do not come to recondition the Roman Leviathan but to bury it; they use Roman scultures and inscriptions as stones in the walls of their lodges.
Rome responds to the newcomers as it had responded to the Dacians: by enslaving and massacring them. But some of Rome's legions are defeated by federations of newcomers, and in one province after another, Roman soldiers and sometimes whole legions join forces with the newcomers against Rome.
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And then something no one had expected happens. It happens the very year when Hsiung-nu and other nomads at Eurasia's opposite extrmity overrun and dismember the Chinese empire.
A strongman and his legion of largely Christian soldiers repress a rebellion in Britain and proceed to invade Italy, oust the ruling emperor, and install themselves in the seats of power. This strongman, a certain Constantine who worships Optimus Maximus as well as the Sun, attributes his victory to the god of his Christian soldiers, and he proclaims himself Christian.
Now the Emperor is the Pontifex Maximus, namely the high priest, not of Optimus but of Yahweh, and the abstraction of the Israelites becomes the god of Rome's legions. Constantine is Emperor by the grace of Jesus Christ, and the largest strain of the inner resistance movement is recuperated.
Henceforth the Christian god marches at the head of the ROman legions, and any god that marches at the head of ROman legions is a twin of Optimus Maxiums.
At the Council of Nicea, the newly-arrived theologian Constantine insists that the Father, the Son and the Ghost are on the same level and of the same stuff. The Son is no longer Osiris-Serapis the reborn. All three are now a new three-headed abstraction, and their collective attributes are those of Optiumus Maximus. The Father is no problem to the counciling theologians since He already had the attributes of Optimus. But the Son cannot be so brutally reduced and inverted. Ah, but he can be. Caligula and Nero demonstrated that the Emperor of Rome can do anything. Constantine demonstrates this again.
All those who object to such a mutilation are called Schismatics and Heretics. The resistance has come to power, but its first aim is to liquidate all resistance. The wars of Israelites against Ammonites, Edomites and Moabites are now remembered as precedents for a holy war, and now the persecutors of the resisters wear the halos.
Optimus Maximus has not concerned himself (or itself) with the affairs of other deities. But now that Optimus is converted into Yahweh the jealous god who wants no other gods before, bside or behind him, this god proclaims an unprecedented war against all other gods--unprecedented everywhere except Judaea.
The first to fall before the armored idol of idols are the gods who symbolize primordial natural events: Isis, Osiris, Serapis, Mithra. And as soon as the field is cleared of all but Christians, the wrath of the theological legions turns against the Schismatics and Heretics in the midst of the Chistrians.
The heresy-hunt inverts every tenet the Christians had stood for. Henceforth, "I say unto you" will be heard only from the mouth of Pontifex Maximus; any other individual who expresses his vision will be a false prophet or, worse yet, Satan's tool.
The stories told by four friends of the crucified Jesus are slapped between the covers of a book, called The Gospels, and proclaimed to be the final words, the last testament. There will be no more visions, no more speculations, no more revelations, no more dreams. If Optimus-Lugalzaggizi has anything to say to His congregation, he will say it to his congregation's officials.
The spears and daggers, the war engines of Rome's armies are now aimed, not only at invaders and conspirators, but also at the imaginations of dreamers and visionaries. The bars and fetters that had imprisoned bodies now incarcerated minds.
Gnostics no longer leave their studies. Manicheans flee for their lives. Anatolians inspired by Priscilla, Maximilia and Montanus to express themselves freely, to share their visions, will be repelled by the prospect of having Emperor Justinian's bishops forced on them; they will lock themselves up in their churches and set the churches on fire.
This is the moment when Christianity ceases to become a Way, a resistance movement, and becomes a religion, a cult. It no longer leads anywhere and it promises nothing, for its priests and bishops have already arrived and are exactly where they wanted to be: they are simultaneously shepherds of the cult and officials of the Roman Empire.
And now the sheep are told that the inhuman, unnatural brutality of Leviathan does no reside in the monster but in its victims!
The priests name the abomination Sin, and they lodge Sin in the individuals who suffer its ravages. Again the Old Testament serves the purposes of the armored legions, for it tells that the first woman was corrupted by Satan, ate forbidden fruit and fell from Eden, taking all her posterity with her. Roman woman-haters join forces with Moses and claim that the people are the ones who are corrupt, not the King of Kings.
Manicheans protest that the misfortunes of the people are miseries, not sins; that the perpetrators of the brutalities, not their victims, are the sinners. But Manicheans are now hunted down by Roman Christians as Christians were one hunted down by Roman Pagans.
The Roman Leviathan tries to recondition itself by swallowing its negation, but it is already too late. The Christian Emperor slouches toward Byzantium to found a new capital while Celtic Scots and Picts with painted bodies and armed with arrows invade the large island beyond the Empire's westernmost province, Franks and Visigoths settle permanently in Gaul, Alans and Goths and Huns show no respect whatever for Emperor Hadrian's wall.
And at last the artificial beast cracks. The Empire splits in two. Greek Byzantium becomes the new capital, but of only half the empire. The western provinces fall to the same fate as the westernmost island and by falling, the priests would now say, they sin, for they abandon the refinements conferred by Roman Civilization.
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