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Timothy Freke

Author of The Jesus Mysteries

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About the Author

Timothy Freke has an honors degree in philosophy and is the author of more than 20 books published internationally. He lives in the U.K. (Bowker Author Biography)

Includes the names: Tm Freke, Tim Freke, Timothy Freke

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Works by Timothy Freke

The Jesus Mysteries (2000) 627 copies
Zen Koan Card Pack (1997) 43 copies
Tao Book & Card Pack (2002) 8 copies
Jezus vertelt 6 copies
Exotic Massage for Lovers (1996) 6 copies
Life's Daily Meditations (2001) 4 copies
The Way of the Desert (1998) 3 copies
Massage For Lovers (1999) 3 copies
Lucidez 2 copies
Vivre lucide (2013) 1 copy

Associated Works

Secrets of the Code [2006 film] (2007) — Narrator — 5 copies


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Common Knowledge

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The twinned purpose of this book is an attack on organized, Fundamentalist (or in the word preferred by the authors, 1CLiteralist 1D) religion combined with the promotion of an alternative, the 1CPerennial Philosphy, 1D which is an idea associated especially with Gottfried Leibniz and, later, Aldous Huxley, holding that certain philosophical and mystical insights into mind and reality are eternal and universal--by implication because they are rooted in human nature as much as in the true relationship between consciousness and the underlying order of the universe. Authors Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy have a rather relentless agenda in the first part of their book that is somewhat unfair to religion. On page 17, they contend that Christianity opposed the abolition of slavery. This is simplistic enough to be a lie, because the abolitionist movement was riddled with clergymen and Bible-thumping laymen. John Brown, the white American who tried to lead a slave revolt in 1859, believed that God compelled him to do this. The song 1CAmazing Grace 1D was written by a Briton who, after being born-again, became an abolitionist. And, after all, the Catholic Church, while in many ways being rightly classified by the authors as 1CLiteralist, 1D has also made many concessions to modernism including a willingness to entertain the idea of evolution and other scientific innovations. Many pious Protestant sects have done likewise. Nevertheless, the authors state their position, with only mild apologies for 1Cbeing deliberately provocative, 1D that Literalist religion is 1Cthe Devil 19s greatest achievement 1D (p. 12). In the second part of the book, the authors present their alternative, which makes for a different book to some extent, more amiable and at least a little less combative in tone.

In the first part of their book the authors survey the Western religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in that order, giving each its own chapter in which to be mercilessly skewered. Perhaps the principal way in which the authors do violence to the facts of theological history is by twisting the context to fit their agenda rather than giving any attention to other implications that are presented in the facts. To make this understandable, I might as well outline their position. Most religious doctrines, especially though not only in the Western religions, are presented through written scripture and have come to be understood by dominant sects within each major tradition as more or less literal accounts of how the world was made, how humanity was brought into the world and what our relationship to the universe is supposed to be. Most of the stories in the Bible and Quran, if presented to the world for the first time today, would be recognized as being too simplistic and bizarre to be true and would consequently be roundly derided from almost all quarters. This is what Freke and Gandy point out more than once. They have a point, but their relentless task becomes one of claiming that almost every single claim in the Bible and Quran is allegory masquerading as fact. Only Saint Paul and Muhammad are regarded by them as historical persons. All the rest, from Abraham to Jesus (and including the Apostles) are fictional characters in stories originally meant to explain spiritual truths by analogy.

While the authors pepper their text with citations, they do not tell the reader that many skeptical scholars are not committed to the idea that the characters in the Bible do not have actual historical counterparts 14though it is true that it would be of little comfort to Literalists if a historical Jesus, for example, bore only the slightest resemblance to the Jesus of the New Testament. Freke and Gandy also suggest that the history laid out in the Biblical books Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Kings and Chronicles is fictitious and does not correspond to actual history. This is often problematic because the lack of evidence for the Bible as history is an artifact of the misuse of the Bible as history. When the authors say that Moses or Solomon did not live when they are supposed to have lived, they gloss over a conundrum: because the dating of Biblical history is suspect, there is no certainty as to when they were 1Csupposed to have lived. 1D Yes, historians have constructed a timeline, but that merely begs the question of whether the timeline is reliable since it is based on nothing other than an interpretation of the scriptures made by early nineteenth century historians in light of new Egyptological discoveries at that time, which scholars calibrated to Biblical history 14arguably erroneously. (See David Rohl 19s book 1CPharaohs and Kings 1D for one argument along this line.)

The footnotes in this book are not always reliable, turning out to be explanatory annotations of the authors 19 thesis as often as citations of sources. When there are citations, they are often used in support of conclusions with which the cited author(s) might not be quite in agreement. At some points, such as in the last full paragraph on page 67, the authors make a number of contentions including this one: 1CFor the first three centuries CE [ 1CCommon Era, 1D or A.D. to most people] Literalist Christianity was the fringe sect and Gnostic Christianity was far more popular 26. 1D Not a single citation is offered in support of this remarkable assertion; nor are there any citations for immediately succeeding sentences in spite of the fact that remarkable assertions just keep coming. Of course, it would be pointless for me to refute such assertions based on the strictly historical and technical meaning of the term 1CGnostic 1D because the authors 19 assertions are dependent on their special definition of the term 1CGnostic 1D which they identify with the Perennial Philosophy.

1CThe different individuals who make up this tradition didn 19t all use this name, of course, but grouping them together as 18Gnostics 19, in this broad sense in which we use the word, enables us to treat this important movement in the evolution of ideas [that is, the Perennial Philosophy] as one identifiable tradition 1D (p. 112).

Then why not consistently refer to it as the Perennial Philosophy or something along that line instead of muddying the water by using 1CGnosticism, 1D which refers to a particular set of ideas that can be located geographically, historically and theologically?

Gnosticism actually does not always agree with Perennialism. On page 104 the authors refer, in passing, to the world as belonging to God, although they know that, strictly speaking, Gnostics generally did not believe that God created the world, but rather that it was created by a lesser being who created the world as an act of rebellion against God. One implication of this admittedly allegorical understanding of the universe and humanity 19s place in it, is that Gnostics found most of humanity to be so mired in the false appearances of the world that a Gnostic need not trouble himself with their salvation but should seek his own instead. This is not always believed by Perennialists and is decidedly not subscribed to by Freke and Gandy who are, after all, writing a book aimed at the general reader whom the Gnostics, in the narrow sense, would likely have written off. So now we can see why it is startling for those of us who know something about Gnosticism to read that it was more popular than Literalist 14or what historian Bart Ehrman calls 1Cproto-orthodox 1D--Christianity. The true Gnostics were not popular and did not wish to be; if anything they were widespread, being found everywhere from the eastern to the western reaches of the world known to the Roman Empire, but they were often embedded within other Churches, going about their teaching in secret. What Freke and Gandy include within Gnosticism are any and all of the forms of early Christianity that would come to be regarded by the Catholic Church as heretical even where these sects were not strictly Gnostic or even Perennialist. A good example would be Marcionite Christianity which Freke and Gandy lump together with Gnosticism. Marcionism was very popular indeed but, while it has things in common with hardcore Gnosticism, these are rather superficial correspondences. Marcionism was, in fact, rather Literalist. The real Gnostics were so individualist and free-thinking that their communities, such as they were, were not hierarchically organized; as loose associations of thinkers, they were politically vulnerable to better organized Marcionite and proto-orthodox groups. What is more, while it is true that there were many churchmen who were influenced by Gnosticism, they were not full-fledged Gnostics but saw themselves as loyal members of the same Church as their Christian neighbors. Besides, they recognized that many aspects of Gnosticism could only truly be appreciated by intellectuals; so they did not expect most people to understand let alone follow their views.

Another example of a distortion arising from the authors 19 polemic is their account of the New Testament conflict between Peter and Paul. The authors deny Peter any historical existence, maintaining that Paul 19s 1Cfrenemy, 1D Cephas, is not the same man as the Apostle Peter. (This idea and their evidence for it has some basis: they contend that later editors of the New Testament changed a 1CCephas 1D to 1CPeter 1D in Paul 19s letter to the Galatians and added the identification of Peter with Cephas to the Gospel of John; while this is controversial, it is interesting to note that some versions of the Bible such as the King James have 1CPeter 1D at Gal. 2:14 while the Revised Standard Version has 1CCephas, 1D as if different ancient manuscripts offer a different name here, supporting the authors 19 charge that a substitution of names is responsible for creating the illusion that Peter and Cephas are the same.) This point has several consequences. One is that it helps the authors 19 to focus exclusively on the Literalists 19 re-writing of Paul 19s ministry to demote him before Peter who knew Jesus personally whereas Paul did not. This helps their earlier contention that Paul 19s reluctance to discuss the earthly life of Jesus is significant evidence that Paul did not believe Jesus to have been a man of flesh and blood to begin with. By suggesting that Peter and the other apostles are fictional so that no one had any claim to have known Jesus in the flesh, the authors cut much support from under the best alternative explanation for Paul 19s reticence about the historical Jesus, which is that since Paul did not know the historical Jesus and since those who might have claimed to have known him 14and to have seen him in his resurrected corporeal form, as well 14would have commanded the most authority, it was in Paul 19s interest, if he wanted to command authority of his own, to downplay his lack of acquaintance with a flesh-and-blood Jesus while playing up his experience of an entirely non-corporeal Jesus. Secondly, the conflict between Peter and Paul also had to do with the conflict between Jewish and gentile Christians, and in this instance (Galatians) Paul is portrayed as shaming Peter. So much for the Literalists trying to raise Peter above Paul in stature.

The authors also get many facts plainly wrong. Where they write, 1CThere are over 150 references to 18Peter 19 in the New Testament 1D (p. 72), they should make that 1Cover 50. 1D (There are exactly 51 in the King James Version, but as shown below, this varies depending on the version.) On the same page, they write, 1CThe name Cephas appears only once in the whole New Testament and the name Peter appears only once in all the letters of Paul 26. 1D They must have meant to add the word 1CGospels 1D after 1CNew Testament, 1D which makes a big difference: There is no mention of 1CCephas 1D in any of the three synoptic Gospels while there is only one in John; however, there are about six uses of the name Cephas in the whole of the New Testament, which includes the Gospels AND the letters. No such excuse can be made for the authors saying that there is only one use of 1CPeter 1D in all of Paul 19s letters: the name appears at least twice at Galatians 2:7-8 in the Revised Standard version and in the King James Version it also appears at 1:18 and a fourth time in some manuscripts at 2:14.

On page 78, the authors enter the territory of Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code" when they assert that "The Nicean Creed was designed by a despotic Roman emperor [by which they mean Constantine] and imposed on Christianity by force." Actually, Constantine only knew that he wanted the Council of Nicea to come to agreement about some divisive issues so that the Church could be unified, and he did not care how these issues were resolved, much less have the ability to write the Nicean Creed himself. That is nonsense.

By the time the authors get to dealing with Islam, they have already spent most of their credibility with me. In the second part of the book, where they discuss the Perennial Philosophy, my favorable inclination toward that general orientation is tempered by my having put them on probationary status. Throughout this book, for all of their talk of free-thinking and independent inquiry, the authors tend to tell their readers what to think not only about reality but about mundane political questions and even (this already begins to make their book dated) particular political leaders. Nevertheless, the second part of the book needs to be regarded as much as possible on its own merit. Some of their assertions seem quite appealing to me, such as this on page 153:

1CThose who attempt to deny their own desires end up as distorted as those who are driven by them, because both approaches to life arise from a misunderstanding of the human predicament. 1D

There is a middle way, then, between the conflicting visions of altruism and selfishness. The authors suggest that there is an enlightened selfishness. (I have observed that altruists are like psychics: even if you believe they exist, you must admit that they are outnumbered by imposters.)

Their thesis is that life is like a dream in that the dreamer is not only the figure he identifies with in the dream but everyone and everything in the dream; so too are we connected to each other and to everything in the world. If we allow ourselves to be aware of this, our relations with others and life in general will be transformed. Much of this insight is contained in religion, but 14and this is the reason for the first part of the book 14we need to view scriptures as speaking allegorically to this lesson rather than taking them literally if we are to get such insights out of them. Hence the plan of the book, which labels the attack on literalism in Part I, 1CThe Bathwater, 1D and the presentation of 1Cspirituality without religion 1D in Part II, 1CThe Baby. 1D

While this book contains a lot of valid information and attractive speculation, the authors 19 relentless special pleading makes someone who already knows something about these issues wince to say the least, and that has made my reading experience less than enjoyable. I prefer to take my skepticism straighter than this. If you want your Perennial Philosophy straighter, you might turn to Freke 19s little book 1CLucid Living, 1D so that you don 19t have to wade through the dreck before you come to the treasure.
… (more)
MilesFowler | 6 other reviews | Jul 16, 2023 |
The print hardcopy and the ebook have been read and reread, but listening was a pleasant experience and the narrator is superb.
CriticalThinkTank | 2 other reviews | Jul 19, 2022 |
Amazing. Exercises provided near end of book.
CriticalThinkTank | 6 other reviews | Jul 19, 2022 |

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