Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts on Zeitgeist

I finally sat down and watched the 2 hour Zeitgeist web documentary, after it was recommended to me by multiple peoples. I'm still not quite sure how I've ended up feeling about it. The set-up is this:
  • Part 1: The origins of Christianity in pagan mystery religions
  • Part 2: An examination of 9-11 as a conspiracy perpetrated by international power brokers
  • Part 3: The origins of the US Federal Reserve bank and its consequences on individual liberty
At first glance, and at first watching of the film, the three parts have no real relation to one another. One could watch the 3 parts separately as individual conspiracies, and I see from Google and YouTube that a lot of people do watch them individually.

For me, Part 1 was the most enjoyable, mostly because the ideas in it are familiar -- a bit like preaching to the choir. I've always looked at Christianity (and other religions) from a historical and anthropological viewpoint, seeing how the religion developed by borrowing ideas and customs from earlier religions and cults, shaped by the politics of the current time to result in the religion as we know it now. Zeitgeist focused on the origin of Christianity as a sun-god religion in the earlier sun-god religions of Egypt, Greece, Minoa, and the Ancient Near East. I've normally taken a broader/longer view in seeing the paternalistic later religions (like in Egypt, Greece etc) supplanting the earlier matriarchal goddess religions (Astarte, Ishtar as newer names for her). There's always a corresponding shift in power when the religious focus shifts: matriarchal societies are supplanted by patriarchies when the Goddess is supplanted by the God. The sun-god religions see the same shift. New religions bring about a new power structure, usually by outlawing or demonizing the earlier religious customs or figures as 'pagan', while simultaneously adopting the same customs and figures with new labels to make the new religion more palatable to the masses. The movie demonstrates this procedure quite successfully, showing how the concepts of Christianity (resurrection, 12 disciples, virgin birth) arose from Ra, Dionysis, Mithra et al.

The cool part that I didn't know, is the reasons why all the sun-god cults had a similar theme... namely the astrological basis for the customs and symbols. Now, the film plays very fast and loose with 'facts', and it should be watched with some serious skepticism of the science behind it, but the study of symbolism is always a bit fuzzy. We all know the earliest civilizations looked to the sun, moon and stars for meaning in their lives, since they used them for keeping time, following the seasons, and knew the sun gave life to the crops on the most basic survival level. That's where the symbols of light and dark became the struggle of light vs. dark -- a duality played out in every religion. But the film looks deeper into the more complex astrology that came later, and draws some compelling parallels into the symbolism of the ancient religions. For example, the "star of the east" Sirius is followed (or aligned) with the "Three Kings" or Orion's belt on or around December 25th, the supposed birthdate of most sun-gods, not only Jesus. The film takes a bit of a leap here, saying the line of 4 stars points to the exact spot where the sun will be 'born' that morning, but I forgive it that. But the symbolism of the 3 kings following the bright star remains. As does the idea of the death of the sun over winter led to the concept of a dying god who is reborn in spring to give life to the people. Very basic symbolism here, and it's not surprising that symbolism shows up in most religions. I think the film just does a good job of pointing out these real world observations within the symbology of Christianity, forcing people to look at religion a bit more objectively as a myth and allegory instead of blindly believing the bible stories as truth.

So we come back to the film as a whole, and try to figure out what the filmmaker is trying to argue. Part 1: people who blindly follow religious teachings without question or understanding of origins are easily led by the power structure of an organized capital-c Church and kept in line through fear, and this concept translates to society as a whole. Part 2: those who hold power in society learn how to control the masses through fear, and will manufacture their own fear-causing events if need be. Part 3: power brokers use any means necessary to control society (once religion, now money), they institutionalize those means (protect by law), and use their influence to control the world for their own profit... while a blind distracted public does nothing to stop it. Do I buy it? Nope, not entirely. Do I think it is possible? Yes. So the film does its job in opening some eyes to the possibility. Probable? Particularly in the organized, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain kind of way? Unlikely. But it doesn't mean I can't be wrong. Spooky.

No comments: