Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When in Rome

It's All Greek To Me

Despite all the thus far mentioned historical examples of culture, for mass popular culture to flourish, there must exist both a media in which to express ideas, ritual myths, customs, and styles as well as a means to rapidly spread said ideas between social groups who might otherwise have no contact with one another.

By this measure, the ancient world champions are the Greeks. Their science, architecture, philosophy, concepts of democracy, and artistic works of literature, theatre, and sculpture spread among and beyond the people in their sphere of influence. And contrary to what the contemporary fundamentalist devotees of Christianity and Judaism wish to believe about themselves, the fantastically rich mother lode of supposedly “paegan” Hellenistic mythology and philosophy greatly shaped the customs, practices, and sacred mythology of both religions. Greek influence has passed down through the centuries, touching every aspect of our own lives, our communities, and our spiritual lives in today's world.

Building upon the foundation of culture laid by the Greeks, came the massively long lived ascendancy of Rome. For 1000 years, a homogenized Roman commonality spread through out the entire Mediterranean world, into the Middle East, and Britannia. Loved or hated, Rome's power and cultural influence in the lives of its inhabitants was absolute.

Above: Shadows of Ancient Rome Below: Roman Love Shack

Rome was not only a great enforcer of cultural standardization, it also was, much like the Anglo people of planet earth, a great assimilator of other cultures, borrowing ideas, styles, language, and customs wherever and whenever it was deemed appropriate. And so went Rome for centuries, devolving from republic, to empire, and to dictatorship ruled by an entire series of psychopathic misfits. Most of the rest of the Western world was dragged along for the Roman ride to varying degrees, resisting whenever the opportunity presented itself. That there are parallels one can draw between Roman world and America is obvious, though thankfully, it still remains debatable as to what those parallels might be.

Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity set the Empire onto the transformational fast path. Constantine immediately lifted the persecution of Christians. He eventually went far beyond this act in three important ways: 1) He opening the imperial purse for Church specific projects including the Church of the Holy Church of the Sepulcher in Jerusalem; 2) he issued edicts that helped the Church to thrive and to grow; and 3) he brought the Church clergy into the governance of the imperial realm. Thus the Roman Empire began its transformational journey into both a theocracy, and into the mother church of a major new world religion: Christianity.

One final act of Constantine, which in scope and consequence rivals his conversion to Christianity, was to build a stunning new capital on the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, and renaming this remade city as Nova Roma, and upon his death, Constantinople. The effect on the empire, which had already been split empire into east and west halves was enormous. From this point on, two separate religious, cultural, social and artistic cultures began to diverge from one another. The eastern half with a Greek flavor, and the western half Roman. . The roots of our story, and yes, this is all about Get Back to Let It Be…Dissected, lie entirely in the western half.

Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 395 by order of Theodosius. Thus, like mammals emerging from the shadows during the age of Dinosaurs, this religion was set to eclipse and to absorb the Roman state, eventually becoming the state. What ensued was a battle of Christian sects, traditions, ideas and orthodoxies, which was settled both by the cigar chompers in smoke filled conclaves, and by the point of the sword. Thus, the new Christian Pharisees and Sadducees were born.

"Go sacrifice yourself – I don’t subscribe to your religion" (Ringo in Help, 1965)

These are the spiritual descendants of the hateful fundamentalists with whom John Lennon would come into conflict in 1966. Lost on all of these so-called spiritual leaders was the undisputable fact that Jesus hated religion, with its pile of arbitrary man made notions. After all, his real message can be summed up as "Love God, and Love One Another".