(continued from last post)
IV: MYSTERY RELIGIONS AFTER THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE CATHOLIC
CHURCH IN ROME
1.) Byzantium and the rise of Islam
When Constantine accepted Christian Baptism on his deathbed, the
Catholic Church really and truly began to take shape. The Bishop of
Rome was given the Imperial title of "Pontifex Maximus", and his
authority eventually exceeded the increasingly feeble Roman Emperors.
With the advance of the barbarian tribes, who had largely accepted a
less orthodox form of Christianity, and with the specter of schism
threatening the Church, the nascent Roman Catholic Church was
incresingly isolated. But somehow, despite the abandonment of the
Western Empire by the Roman Imperial House in their flight to the East,
the Catholic Church survived.
The remnant of the old Roman Empire was ruled from what is now
Istanbul in Turkey. First known as Byzantium, then Constantinople, the
Byzantine Emperors abandoned Roman Catholicism for what is now known as
the Eastern Orthodox Church. The great Byzantine cathedral of Hagia
Sophia (holy wisdom in Greek) was the spiritual center of the Byzantine
empire until the advance of the next great Mystery Religion...the
religion of Islam.
The solar deity Allah was originally considered female to the
ancient Bedoin tribespeople, as were most of their other deities.
Before the uphevals that surrounded the acceptance of Islam, Meccan
women perhaps had the most rights of any in the known world outside of
the British Isles. The Ka'aba, the square shrine containing an
extremely large meteorite which was said to be a gift of the solar
goddess, was originally kept by female priestesses and was once a
shrine accessible to women only.
By trade with the exiled groups of Jews in the Near East, a young
trader named Muhammad came into contact with the teachings of Judaism
and Manichaean Christianity. Through this, he began to formulate his
doctrines in what became known as the Qu'ran and the Hadith. The Qu'ran
was Muhammad's answer to the Torah...a book of religious history and
religious precepts. The Hadith was more or less a book of commentary on
the Qu'ran and its application to human law. The Qu'ran was supposedly
revealed to Muhammad in the desert of Arabia by the angel Jabril, known
to Jewish mystics as Gabriel.
The message of the Qu'ran was originally ill received, especially
by the priestesses of Mecca. Muhammad and his followers were forced to
flee to the city of Medina, a trading port of rather poor reputation at
that point. The Medinans were more receptive to Muhammad as not just a
religious leader, but also as a political leader, and joined with him
in his eventual conquest of Mecca. The conquest meant that the rights
and privileges of Meccan women were abolished, although the white slave
trade that existed in Medina was also curtailed. Patriarchy was
installed, although with more curbs than that in the Jewish and
Christian world. A man could only have four wives, and would have to
prove in Islamic Court that he could support more than one wife. Still,
it was a long way to fall for the women of Mecca. Later, under
influence of the Byzantines, (who picked the idea up from India) women
were forced to wear a full-length veil called a chador.
But even before the chador, women lost their right to dismiss
their husbands for mistreatment, while divorce became very easy for
men. A woman could be beaten for disobedience, while slaves were set
free of the lash. A woman's testimony counted only as half as reliable
than that of a man in Islamic Court, and women were banned from the
pilgrimage to the Ka'aba, the shrine that was once the holiest site for
the Goddess-worshipping pre-Islamic faith of the Arabian people.