THE TRUE RELIGION OF THE WORLD
The story we are about to tell is as strange as it is controversial. If we are right, then Roman Christianity, indeed perhaps all of Christianity, is about to be turned on its head. Most Christians today are unaware that not so long ago a handful of very wise and very brave philosophers kick-started an intellectual and spiritual revolution in a seemingly impossible bid to reform the church into a very different thing indeed. Their mission was to liberate Christianity from the stranglehold of an oppressive clergy and their dogmas and turn it into a magical religion of Nature, the “True Religion of the World,” governed by wise and benevolent philosopher-priests from a “City of the Sun” set in the heart of Christendom: Rome. The task we have set for ourselves is to chronicle the mission of these most extraordinary men and women and to seek this legendary and magical City of the Sun. The historical period we shall explore is known as the Renaissance--literally the Rebirth--when Europe
. . . [was] seeking intensively for knowledge of reality, for an answer to its problems, which normal education failed to give. . . . It turned to other ways of seeking an answer: intuitive, mystical, magical . . . it sought to cultivate the intuitive faculty of man.
Spanning two centuries from 1460 to 1675, the cultural rebirth that we will cover was kick-started in the city of Florence. There, in a Europe slowly emerging from the throngs of the Dark and Middle Ages, wearied by the oppression of the church, sickened by the centuries of crusading wars, and spiritually depleted by the rampant religious bigotry, intrigue, and hypocrisy, a few enlightened men displayed amazing grit by questioning and even challenging the ecclesiastical establishment and boldly stood out to express their new vision for healing the world. Often working singlehandedly, their common mission was to peacefully bring about a great reformation of the Vatican and, by extension, of Christendom as a whole. They were the Renaissance Philosophers, or as some historians sometimes call them, the Hermetic Magicians. Highly learned, highly eloquent, and highly motivated, their powerful weaponry was not the sword but the pen and the word. Working in dimly lit rooms and often by candlelight, they poured their intellectual epiphanies into books, tracts, and theses that promoted a theology and philosophy of a lost golden age, which was compatible with the new scientific discoveries and, more importantly, human dignity and intellectual freedom.
We shall propose to focus our investigation on three major movements whose influence, we believe, led to actual construction of the elusive “Hermetic City of the Sun.” These movements were Hermetism, Heliocentrism, and Utopianism. Although caught up in a parallel crisis that befell Christendom, named the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the strong mental brew these movements created when merged together provided the cerebral fuel for the Renaissance and, as some historians are also inclined to believe, the subsequent
Age of Discovery and Enlightenment. But on a deeper, more occult level these movements, especially Hermeticism, created a sort of spiritual-cum-intellectual time bomb that was to explode at the very threshold of the Vatican.
The Hermetic Movement
This was a concerted attempt to restore the “magical religion of ancient Egypt” as rediscovered in the Corpus Hermeticum or Hermetica, a body of books believed to be the work of an all-wise, all-knowing Egyptian sage called Hermes Trismegistus. The Renaissance philosophers saw in the Hermetica a powerful perennial theology that elevated man to divine status through the pursuit of knowledge (gnosis). Most, but not all, Renaissance philosophers desperately tried to have it embraced, even canonized by the Vatican, sometimes at the cost of their lives.
The Heliocentric Movement
This was the new scientific discoveries of Nicolas Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo, essentially that not the Earth but the Sun was the center of the visible universe. Unfortunately the Vatican upheld that such discoveries were against Holy Scriptures and, as a consequence, forcefully repudiated them and declared them a vile heresy. In spite of this, some Renaissance philosophers audaciously tried to convince the Vatican to recognize it and embrace it, again at the risk of their own lives.
The Utopian Movement
This movement promoted the founding of idealistic republics or citystates where people could live and prosper in relative harmony and peace. The utopian city-state that we are primarily interested in is the so-called City of the Sun, a sort of hybrid of theocracy-democracy headed by an enlightened philosopher-scientist-priest. With the split of Western Christendom into Protestantism and Catholicism, and the bloody genocidal Reformation and Counter-Reformation that ensued, the Renaissance Philosophers desperately tried to reunite Christendom under a reborn perennial theology administered from a centralized City of the Sun. Interestingly, the Jesuit Order was to use virtually the same approach in their missionary zeal to convert the New World, Asia, and Africa into Roman Catholicism.
Geocentrism versus Heliocentrism
Geocentrism, or Earth-centrism, is the (erroneous) astronomical model in which the sun and all other celestial bodies orbit/revolve around the Earth. The theory had already been advanced by Aristotle in ca. 340 BCE but was fully developed by Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria in the second century CE in his book The Almagest. The Ptoloemaic System was favored, indeed voraciously supported by the Catholic Church because it was deemed to conform with various statements in Holy Scriptures implying that the Earth was stationary and immovable and that all celestial bodies revolved around it. For example, in 1 Chronicles 16:30 “the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.”