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(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.


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