The Pauline ban on esoteric interpretation made Christians poor scientists

The traditional metaphysical methods of Western esotericism, or occultism, are all creations inside Judaism or Jewish adoptions of Greek Neoplatonism and gnosticism. The occult arts were preserved, that is to say, inside Judaism.

Everything is fine, until Paul came along and marketed his morbid and dumbed--down idea of what “Christianity” ought to care about. Namely, the crucifixion and how this was the greatest thing in history. An amazing reversal and brilliant marketing to say that the arrest and execution of the leader “is really” proof of the movement’s success. Most Christians were pissed at the crucifixion because it was game over. So they tried to interpret what Jesus actually taught, instead of making his embarrassing predictive failure (of his being installed as President of the Jews by the Son of Man) into “the real teaching.”

Anyway, part of Paul’s letters were telling noobs what to believe and how to interpret the disaster of Jesus’ demise. But that was only part. The 60% of his “teaching” is public relations advice—how to look good in front of hostile neighbors. Don’t do anything weird that might offend the orthodox! Better to be safe and do as little as possible to avoid risking offending a Pharisee. As a result, grace-indulgent Christianity become more uptight about the black box between God and nature than Judaism. For all his talk of the new grace and liberation from the 613 commandments of the tyrant-god Yahveh—in the old days, before he loved us enough to commit suicide, which was the only thing that could really help us in one fell swoop—Paul sure is command-y. And he attacks stuff that no one really cared about. Creative methods of interpretation? Is that serious enough to condemn?

It’s not, but it lets you know what Paul was concerned about. He was dictating the new theology, so any means of theological discovery besides his dictum from fiat was a threat. As a result, the genius of Judaism, which is its systematic mystical metaphysics, were ignored. This body of non-literal reflection on the divine life and its relation to stuff is called Kabbalah, and it includes a basket of atomizing, rearranging, and numbering practices besides its brilliant and famous geometrical and almost mechanical emergence theory. This includes words games like Gematria, Notarikon, and Temurah. These became forbidden.

Gematria, Notarikon, and Temurah are good faith attempts at research. They may be bullshit but they nurture and clarify a premise at the core of any religion: the very happy idea that there exists an esoteric substratum of deeper “spiritual” meaning underneath the default interpretation given by social consensus. And another idea: the Heraclitean logos idea and the attendant claim that words participate in the meaning realm directly. Could meaning really be linguistic, ontologically? Can words have relations “under the surface?” Very interesting ideas. For Paul, not allowed.

Surely this attack on creative method had a retarding effect on Christian science on Medieval Europe (400–1400). Although science was free to investigate and make up its own terms, connecting all this to its divine source was heresy. So compartmentalized science is OK. Compartmentalized talk about God is also OK. For example, echoing orthodox theology is OK. Tracts about praise and obedience are OK. Investigating what Meister Eckhart called “the nameable God”—the one built from vague personal characteristics in the Bible—is OK, as long as you are only listing adjectives and don’t get too deep. So divine character analysis is OK as long as it matches orthodoxy. Talk about God’s plan and the likely future is also OK under these terms. Talk about how the hell a crucifixion managed to delete other people’s sin? Great. Talk about the character and adventures of the Christian Devil? That, too, is OK. But analysis of the world between God-the-person and physics—that is, a divine mechanics, something systematic and lawful that can at least meet the phenomenal world? Bad and forbidden.

God was supposed to have been reborn in the “New” Testament. But the Pauline Yahveh is downright paranoid. The only good theology is a vague one with no speculation about the strata of emergence between creator and creation. Pauline Christianity is downright anti-metaphysics.

The prohibition on occult metaphysics inside orthodox Christianity and Islam is infuriating. Orthodoxy enforcers are the equivalent of having Flat Earthers inside the religion. A truth is true by being true, not by being off-limits or outside the boundary of permissible thinkability. God is there for being blindly worshiped, to be understood only as a person, but don’t you ever think about him. Just be obedient and sure, love him, but in a blind way. That is—don’t visualize or theorize about the relation. Just relate in love and trust—that is enough. Just you and God, hanging out, spending dumb quality time together as mere terminals and without any qualitative detail. He loves you and tells you what to do, and that is enough.