Appendix 6: The Christ Myth.

One early approach to the parallels between the different religions was to hypothesise that all religions were basically elaborations of ancient Sun Worship, but embracing also the Moon, the Planets and the Stars, as the regulators of the days and seasons. An early example of such theorisings was by Charles François Dupuis, explored in a work consisting of no less than twelve volumes, Origine de tous les Cultes, ou la Réligion Universelle, first published in 1795. In 1798 this was abridged into a single volume of some 400 pages, which was subsequently translated into English as The Origin of All Religious Worship. Thus, for example, Hercules was really symbolic of the Sun, his twelve labours representing the passage of the Sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac. Bacchus, Apollo and Adonis, likewise, were merely elaborate solar myths. Dupuis' most extraordinary conclusion, though, was that Christ had never really existed at all, and that he too was actually no more than an elaborate solar myth: Christ was the Sun – the Lamb of God was the Sun in Aries – and it was no accident that his apostles matched in number the twelve months and their associated signs of the zodiac! (An amusing reductio ad absurdum response to this part of Dupuis’ theory was published in a pamphlet, in 1827, by Jean-Baptiste Péres. It was entitled Comme quoi Napoléon n’a jamais existé, ou Grand Erratum, source d’un nombre infini d’errata à noter dans l’histoire du XIXe Siècle. In it, Péres “proved”, using similar reasoning, that Napoleon Bonaparte, with his twelve active marshalls, had never really existed either and was, in fact, just another solar myth!)

Likewise, Thomas Paine, in his curious essay On the Origin of Freemasonry, first published shortly after his death in 1809, wrote: 

“The Christian religion and Masonry have one and the same common origin, both are derived from the worship of the sun; the difference between their origins is, that the Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the sun.”

Paine spent some time in revolutionary France, of course, where he is said to have met Dupuis, though how far his views were directly influenced by Dupuis is not clear.

Another English example of this type of theorising was Godfrey Higgins' hefty two volume work Anacalypsis: An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis or an Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions , published in 1836. Following on from Dupuis, Higgins claimed that all religions were basically splinter groups of one ancient super-religion, again developed out of Sun Worship, and which had spread and diversified as peoples wandered across the globe. Higgins called this ancient religion Pandeism, and he believed that in certain parts of the world it might still survive. All religions were thus interconnected – hence all the parallels – and all were ultimately derived from Sun Worship. Thus, for example, Buddha was the Sun in Taurus, whereas Krishna was the Sun in Aries. Higgins agreed with Dupuis that Hercules, with his twelve labours, was another personification of the Sun, as was Samson, his Biblical counterpart. Again, the Biblical Elijah, by rendering his name Elias, is clearly seen to be none other than the Greek Helios, the Sun. On a different front, Abraham and Brahma are one and the same, with a slight interchange of letters (or metathesis), as is further demonstrated by the names of their wives, Sara and Saraiswati (= Sara-iswati, or Lady Sara); the word Jews probably comes from the word Yogees; and as for the Chi Rho monogram of Christ, that is simply an adapted version of an emblem of the pagan god Jupiter Ammon. Taking Hinduism as a particular example, Higgins found it very suspicious indeed that the Hindu God Krishna, whose cult predated Christ by thousands of years, was to be found depicted with his mother in a format very much like the Christian Virgin and Child (see Gallery 7C, Fig.3) ; it was suspicious that in some accounts Krishna met his death by being nailed to a tree – disturbingly like a crucifixion; and it was suspicious that Hinduism had a Holy Trinity very much like the Christian one! As Higgins saw it, Christianity and Hinduism were simply two offshoots of an ancient universal Sun-worshipping religion, inheriting their shared characteristics from the common ancestor, Pandeism.

The works of Dupuis, Higgins and others eventually led to one of the most famous books in this vein, Kersey Graves' book The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours, first published in 1875. As the title suggests, Graves – leaning heavily on the likes of Dupuis and Higgins – managed to find no less than sixteen holy men scattered throughout world religions, all of them crucified just as Christ is supposed to have been – Krishna was just one of them. In fact, Krishna (or Chrishna, as he spells it) is a keystone of Graves' case, and he claims to identify no less than 346 striking analogies between their supposed lives! In addition to both being crucified, as already mentioned, both were born of a Virgin on December 25th and both were visited by wise men who were led there by a star. So great were these striking analogies that Graves referred to the worship of Krishna (or Chrishna) as "Chrishnaanity"! Of course, Graves met considerable opposition to his views as the influences of cultural borrowing became evident; plus at least one image of a crucified Krishna cited by Graves, and earlier by Higgins, seems likely to have been part of a misidentified Christian crucifix of an unusual style! But it is not how right or wrong Graves' views were that is the issue here, rather the issue is that religious doubt was in the air throughout the 19th century, and indeed on into the 20th century with the likes of J.M.Robertson's books Pagan Christs (1903) and The Jesus Problem (1917), and Arthur Drews' book Die Christusmythe (The Christ Myth)(1910). Whilst the foregoing were hostile to Christianity, in that they claimed Christ was only a mythological character, with varying degrees of astronomical symbolism, Arthur Weigall in his book The Paganism in Our Christianity, published in 1928 adopted a middle way: Christ had really existed, but a mythology had grown around him that adopted various strands of pagan belief to embellish its stories. Certainly such admissions were a blow to those Christians who believed that every word of the New Testament was true, but at least that was better than admitting that Christianity was a mere offshoot of Hinduism, and that Christ had no more existed than Krishna! It was a damage limitation exercise, in effect.

But it must not be supposed that all books tracing the origins of religion back to sun worship are necessarily ‘wild eyed’. Max Müller’s essay “Comparative Mythology”, which first appeared in the Oxford Essays in 1856, was a carefully written piece on the solar theory of mythology in which Hercules was seen as having a solar origin, just as he was by Dupuis. The problem is that one can get carried away and see too much solar influence, as indeed happened in the case of Sir George W. Cox, a follower of Max Müller’s, with unfortunate results.The story is well told in the book Comparative Mythology – an Essay by Professor Max Müller, edited, with additional notes and an Introductory Preface on Solar Mythology, by A. Smythe Palmer D.D. (no date, but post 1900.) Palmer writes thus in his Introduction:

“Max Müller, as is well known, was the redoubtable champion and exponent of the solar theory of mythology, which of recent years has suffered eclipse. It has been thought that in the enthusiasm of a discoverer he made exaggerated claims on its behalf, as if it were the master-key which would open every door. As a French critic sarcastically put it, ‘Tous les dieux, nous savons, sont le soleil.’ The extravagant lengths to which the master’s ideas were pushed by an injudicious disciple, Sir George W. Cox, unhappily afforded too much ground for the ridicule which came to be heaped upon them. The solar theory has certainly been brought into disrepute by the rashness of its supporters, and from this shade it has hardly yet emerged. A contemporary skit, provoked by the wild suggestions of Sir George W. Cox shows with what scepticism, not unwarranted, it was received. It appeared in Kottabos, the terminal magazine of Trinity College, Dublin, No.5, 1870, and is attributed to the lively pen of the late Dr. R.F. Littledale. I have thought it worth reprinting as an appendage to this introduction. I believe, however, that there is now a reaction taking place in favour of the views advanced by Max Müller. Later investigations into the origins of primitive religious belief in Babylonia, Egypt, Western Asia, and America go far to justify the solar theory, and prove that the sun was verily and, indeed, the central object of early religious thought as he is of our physical system.” (p.vi-vii)

As he indicates, Palmer reprints the skit in full, along with Müller’s essay. In brief, the skit ‘proves’ that Müller himself was no more than a solar myth, and that his wife, “the mortal maiden Grenfell”, represents “the green hill or mountain pasture on which the Sun delights to shine”, her forename Georgina being “a feminine form of Geôrgos, the ‘earth worker’ or ‘tiller of the soil’. Their marriage thus represents “the dependence of the agriculturist on the fostering love of the Sun deity.” (p.xl.) (Müller married Georgina Adelaide Grenfell in 1859.) For Müller on Hercules, see Palmer p.115ff. As for Sir George W. Cox, see his books Mythology of the Aryan Nations (2 vols., 1870) and An Introduction to the Science of Comparative Religion and Folklore (1881). From the latter we learn that Hercules was “the greatest, or at least the most conspicuous, of all the Hellenic solar heroes” (p.101); that Perseus was another solar hero (p.110-1); and that in the myth of Œdipus and the Sphinx, the former represented the Sun whilst the latter represented a Thunder-Cloud whose waters were released upon the answering of the famous Riddle of the Sphinx by Œdipus (p.121).