The Psycho Path of Saul from Tarsus

It’s a story as old as the ability of humans to conceive ideologies and build organized ritualistic structures around them. It’s a story maybe as old as the ability of people to believe itself.

There you have a firm believer — a member of a sect, an adherent of a strictly defined belief system. He studies scriptures, writes doxologies and apologetics. He’s full of zeal for God, he’s eager for purity of his faith and doctrine. Ambitious to prove himself as worthy, as righteous in the divine eyes, he wants to earn his place among the illustrious. He wants to be remembered, to make his dent into the history.

He feels that calling in his heart and sets out on a mission to purge the false prophets, idolaters, and worshipers of evil. Exactly as his forefathers did, he brands all heretics he can find and brings them to justice they deserve. No punches held back, no mercy given, just blazing righteousness — he’s faithful to the pure ideal in his head. He believes that he is chosen.

But then something happens. Maybe he’s criticized by the high priest for his overzealous drive. Maybe his fellow sectarians start to avoid him, because they feel threatened by him, too. And maybe just his conscience gifts him with a strange vision.

And in that moment of profound theophany, inspired by that message from spirit, his course suddenly changes.

Our believer finds a new idol to worship.

He puts ashes on his head, he feels pity and begs for forgiveness, and, after a while, with the same zeal starts to spread the new-found belief.

I bet, you all know this story well. It’s pretty archetypal. The most common occurrence today is when a Christian converts to another faith, most probably of the new-age or Eastern variety, but also Judaism, Islam, or another flavor of Christianity can do — suddenly they are even holier than holier than thou.

Such converts are like newborn, indeed, but their old tendencies don’t change. They think that they have overcome the old illusions, that now they finally see the light, but they still divide the world on “us” and “them”. Only now they are more loving, more humble, or more spiritual than the rest (which is everyone outside their creed, but especially the members of their former sect). They still only believe; they don’t know.

Now, imagine that such a person appears within the ranks of a newly emerging mystico-philosophical movement. He’s ambitious, zealous, a bit more educated than most of his peers, and, as a cherry on the cake, he feels that he’s called and chosen to lead or establish himself as the “source of wisdom”. It’s a disaster in the making.

And that’s what happened when Saul of Tarsus, aka Paul, previously a devout pharisee, joined Christians after his alleged christophany¹.

Whatever happened to Saul on the road to Damascus or elsewhere, only God knows. In the Acts, he fell to the ground, and his companions heard voices but didn’t see anything. Quite logical if you consider that he had some vision and was talking to it. Immediately after that follows his meeting with Ananias of Damascus, and what resembles his own rendition in Galatians (see below), only here packed into a shorter time-frame.

His own description in 1 Corinthians and Galatians is even more vague. The whole incident, as it is further documented in 2 Corinthians, very much resembles an ordinary “out of body experience”.

Loosely paraphrased, all we get is Saul saying, “I saw Christ in a vision. That’s it. Deal with it. I’m special, and an apostle.

And the meeting in Damascus either did not happen, or Saul didn’t deem it so important as to even mention it. Makes one wonder why.

So, here we have a zealous religious fanatic, one who had some kind of revelation, and who appointed himself as an apostle. However, not even the author of Acts, otherwise quite supportive of Saul, acknowledges him as such, because the prerequisite to be an apostle was apparently to be with Jesus all the way from his baptism to resurrection. Still, OK.

But then comes his self aggrandizement. His claims that he does not boast on his own behalf, but does not forget to mention that he works harder than the rest. That he’s on par or even more of an apostle than the original twelve. And he reassures us quite frequently, that what he writes is no lie and we should believe him. And to finish it off, he directly contradicts Jesus.

Jeez, and this is the founding father of official Christian theology. Do you still need to ask why all Christian churches feel so oppressive and gloomy, even though the original message that shines through (here and there) is so full of light?

I only wonder what the other founders thought. Maybe they thought they could use him. Maybe they were of the same opinion as Saul that the end sanctifies the means, that the more the merrier, and conversion rates are all what matters. But maybe they were equally zealous, power-hungry fanatics (Cephas, aka Peter, I’m looking at you — hmm?).

And one more thing — please, stop calling that man from Tarsus Paul.

Or saint, for that matter.

¹ Even though in Saul’s case it might have been just coldblooded contrivance, I give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just blinded by “religious” greed.

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