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Shamanism, via Babylon,
found its entrance into Christianity

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Shamanism, via Babylon,
found its entrance into Christianity

by Alan Knight
Mr. Knight graduated from the University of the Americas in Mexico City with a degree in archaeology. In his undergraduate, as well as postgraduate, studies at Columbia University in New York he specialized in ancient religious history. This is the fourth in a series of articles based on his latest book, Spirit of Antichrist. In this month's installment he explains the surprising role of an ancient primitive religion--shamanism--in the survival to this day of Babylonian religion.

NAMPA, Idaho--So far in this series of articles we have seen how Babylonian religion bitterly opposed the Hebrew God of creation. In ancient times the Babylonians went so far as to brand the Hebrew God as evil for bringing the Great Flood on mankind.

That same resentment is with us yet. Protestant Christianity trashes Hebrew religion as materialistic and backward. To be truly spiritual, Protestant scholars insist, we must reject the basic features of Hebrew worship, especially the seventh-day Sabbath.

Meanwhile Catholic Christianity's authoritarian leader does essentially the same thing. Using his supposed authority to override Scripture, he similarly cleanses the church of its Hebrew roots.

The anti-Semitic spirit of Babylonian religion indeed is alive and well in mainstream Christianity. But is there really a historical connection? Is the similarity perhaps only accidental?

We can find many differences between ancient Babylonian religion and modern mainstream Christianity. Ancient Babylonian religion was truly primitive by modern standards. If there really is a historical link, how did it evolve into the more-sophisticated forms of religion we see about us?

The shaman connection

We find the answer, surprisingly, in Genesis 6 and its story of the giants. Remember from the first installment of this series (in The Journal of March 31, 2008) how a people called the Sumerians invaded southern Iraq around 3400 B.C.? The arrival of the Sumerians and their dominance and exploitation of the native peasants are what Genesis 6 describes.

These same Sumerians founded Babylonian civilization and its religious tradition. But they did not make up Babylonian religion from scratch.

When the Sumerians invaded southern Iraq the religion they brought with them was shamanism, and shamanism is a key to understanding how the original, more-primitive Babylonian religious tradition evolved into the more-sophisticated forms of religion in today's world.

Shamanism was the first religion to promote the idea of the immortality of the soul. Primitive shaman tribes believed that at death the soul goes to live in the spirit world. After a time it is reborn back in our world, and so it continues in a repetitive cycle of death and rebirth.

In this unending process shamanism was concerned equally with material and spirit worlds. If the correct ritual procedures are not followed at death, one's soul might become stuck in our world as a ghostly disembodied spirit. So getting souls back into the spirit world at death was an important issue.

But getting souls from the spirit world to come back into our world also was important.

Shamanism believed that animals have souls as well, and, if animal souls are not successfully reborn into our world in sufficient quantities, then hunting will fail and man will starve.

Shaman priests concerned themselves with contacting the gods to repair any problems in the flow of souls back and forth between the material and spirit worlds.

Shaman ritual emphasized the opening up of portals to the spirit world. Shaman priests claimed they could project themselves, in the spirit, through those openings. By that means they believed they could intervene with the gods to keep the interaction of the material and spirit worlds in proper working order.

When the Babylonians founded man's first great civilization in ancient Iraq, they brought many shamanic concepts over into Babylonian religion. That transference, for example, inspired the rationale behind the Babylonians building the Tower of Babel.

Remember how Genesis describes the tower as reaching into the heavens? (Genesis 11:4). The top of Babylonian pyramids, like the Tower of Babel, was one of many portals into the heavens through which shaman priests and priestesses contacted the spirit world.

But, when the Babylonians created Babylonian religion out of shamanism, some things changed. Most prominent was a distinct bias towards the material world.

Classic shamanism had an equal interest in both material and spirit worlds.

But the Babylonians had just invented the first great civilization, so they were obsessed with success in the material world.

They retained typical shaman ideas about creating portals to the spirit world, but their interest was primarily in what they could get from the spirit world that would let them prosper in material existence in our world.

So the original Babylonian religion in ancient Iraq ignored shaman ideas about the immortal soul and its return to the spirit world at death. But that was destined to change.

Transformation in Greece

Don't forget how the apostle John said that Babylonian religion would become an international success: "The waters ... where the harlot is seated are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages" (Revelation 17:15).

In Spirit of Antichrist we give the historical evidence for how this initially was fulfilled.

Babylonian religion and its traditional hatred of the Hebrew God of creation spread throughout the Near East and Mediterranean, finally coming to rest in ancient Greece.

But now, in Greece, something extraordinary happened. It was there that Babylonian religion crossed paths a second time with shamanism.

But this time the exact opposite happened. This time the emphasis shifted from the material to the spirit world. Now the basic message of Babylonian religion became the immortal soul and preparation for a successful transition to the spirit world after death.

Suddenly Babylonian religion transformed into something that could compete in the modern world. Now it could even pass for Christianity itself.

That indeed is exactly what happened, and shamanism is what made it all happen--first in ancient Iraq, where Babylonian religion was born, and again in Greece, where it transformed into its more-sophisticated modern form. In effect, the ancient and modern forms of Babylonian religion are two sides of the same coin, both products of the same primitive shaman religion.

What triggered this transformation of Babylonian religion in ancient Greece?

As follows from the evidence we present in Spirit of Antichrist, it began far away. Around 1000 B.C. China expelled some nomadic tribes that had invaded its borders. The expulsion set in motion a ripple effect that displaced other tribes in central Asia, ultimately forcing a people called the Scythians to migrate from central Asia to the shores of the Mediterranean.

The Scythians, like most peoples of central Asia, practiced a form of shamanic religion, and they planted new shamanic ideas about the immortal soul in ancient Greece.

Greek philosophy

Surprising and little known outside scholarly circles is that two prominent Greek mystery cults adopted shamanic religious beliefs from the Scythians and merged them with traditional Greek religion.

These were the Orphic and Pythagorean mystery cults.

Next, in a fateful turn of history, Plato became a fan of the Pythagoreans, and he passed these shaman ideas into classical Greek philosophy.

Reasons for the soul

For many centuries the most famous Greek philosophers, beginning with Plato, spent much of their time reasoning how the immortal soul came to be found inside man and how it was destined to return to the heavens after death.

It was from Greek philosophy that this newer form of the Babylonian religious tradition passed into the world of Christianity.

So once again we find the apostle John's view of Babylonian religion confirmed by secular history. John says it would come to dominate many peoples, nations and languages, and he presents it as enduring from ancient to modern times.

He uses the terminology of kings and harlots to describe Babylonian religion in the ancient world, and he uses the same terminology of kings and harlots to describe apostasy in his contemporary world in the 1st century A.D., as well as in the future just before Christ returns.

John makes the point about the continuity of Babylonian religion for an important reason. The reason is that today many fail to recognize religious apostasy for what it is. John's point is that what we see about us is the same Babylonian religious apostasy that has been with us from the very beginning!

Remember from the first installment of this series how the ancient Babylonians were obsessed with their invention of civilization, and they hated the Hebrew God of creation because supposedly He was opposed to their exploiting the material world.

Now, after the bias of Babylonian religion had tilted towards the immortal soul and the heavens, one might assume they would let the Hebrew God off the hook. But no! Now they hated Him even more!

If the Hebrew supreme deity created the material world, they reasoned, then He's still evil.

Hebrew religion supposedly is designed to keep us in bondage to the Hebrew deity's material world and prevent our immortal soul from returning to the heavens.

In the new Babylonian religion, for the immortal soul to return to the heavens it must first escape from the material world, and that means that Hebrew religion, including its seventh-day Sabbath that celebrates creation, is a deceptive trap.

So some early Christians, called gnostics, invented the idea that to be saved we must reject everything Jewish, anything to do with Hebrew religion and its supposedly evil deity.

We have come full circle, back to the same hatred of the Hebrew God of creation that was the basis of Babylonian religion from the beginning.

So today both Protestant and Catholic Christianity continues to preach the concept of rejecting the Hebrew roots and practices embraced by the 1st-century apostolic church.

* * * * *

Spirit of Antichrist is a 465-page paperback volume that can be ordered from the author at the discounted price of $19 plus $2.50 postage and handling. Send check or money order to Alan Knight, 2704 Summercrest St., Caldwell, Idaho 83607, U.S.A. Contact Mr. Knight at or (925) 352-6876.


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