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Suns of God:
Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled

Reviewed by Dr. Robert M. Price

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The very learned Acharya S has spoken again. In a sequel to her wide-ranging The Christ Conspiracy, she has redoubled her efforts to show the solar - that is, the astro-theological - basis of all religions and mythologies, and to demonstrate that the great savior figures of the world's religions are late historicizations of the sacred sun myths. At the outset, let me make clear that I regard Acharya ("the Teacher," as she was dubbed by friends and students) as a colleague and fellow-laborer in the field of Christ-Myth scholarship. The issues over which she and I differ are secondary, though important and fascinating. In my review (which I fear has done at least as much harm as it may have done good) of her previous book, I focused on our differences, disliking to be held responsible for certain specific views set forth by one with whom I am nonetheless in fundamental agreement. Some readers have opportunistically used my review out of context in order to rebut views on which Acharya and I are in fact in basic accord. So, hoping to avoid such a reading this time out, I would like to underline the fact that our differences over secondary points are legitimate differences in the way we weigh the evidence. I hope that readers of my review will take these differences as signals of where more research is necessary on all our parts. I know Acharya has given me many new questions and much to think about. That was true of her first book and equally true of this one. I do not mind acknowledging her as my teacher as well.

I had already found the solar mythology paradigm quite helpful in explaining the origin and character of much of the Old Testament narrative. Ignaz Goldziher, following Max Muller, made a powerful case for the solar/lunar/stellar identity of most Genesis (and several other biblical) characters in his masterpiece Mythology Among the Hebrews. Once one knows what to look for, Isaac, Esau, Enoch, Moses, Samson, and Elijah emerge as obvious candidates for solar myths. And Jesus certainly has many of the same marks. The others appear to be fictitious or legendary in any case. With Jesus, virtually the whole story deconstructs into various Septuagint rewrites (as Randel Helms shows) and myth-borrowings as the Scandinavian and German Religionsgeschichtliche Schule demonstrated to the satisfaction of anybody but moss-backed apologists. The only remaining question, for me at least, has been whether Jesus Christ was a man transfigured into mythic proportions by the imagination of his admirers, or whether he began as an imaginary deity and was subsequently made historical in the manner suggested for the Greek deities already by the ancient Euhemerus. We will shortly see the perspective Acharya takes on this pivotal question.

She goes much further afield than the title of the book suggests in order to show the virtual ubiquity of particular salvation mythemes and religious symbols. One finds startling parallels, as the first missionaries did, between myths and symbols among Christians, Vajrayana Buddhists, and pre-Columbian Mexicans. How can this be? Acharya offers two distinct explanations for the striking phenomenon, and they seem to me to render one another superfluous. Whichever theory you choose, you are rid of the need for the other. First, her catalogue of parallels is so impressive as to press home the question: how can all these disparate cultures have come up, independently, with ceremonial crosses, sacrificed saviors, common myth-plots, etc.? Must these things not all be analogous responses by human brains, built the same way all over the earth, to the same stimulus? And what might that stimulus have been? It had to be something available to everybody, everywhere: Every eye shall see him. What else but the movements of the sun and the other lights through the heavens? We know astrology/astronomy to have been widespread across the ancient globe, and when we find such a correspondence among myths and ritual symbols, too, we naturally trace them to the same source. I don't believe I had ever faced the force of this argument before reading this book. Some might prefer to advance a Jungian explanation, but that is pretty much another way of saying the same thing: the deep structures of the mind will spit out the same creations faced with the same raw data. And in this case, that data would seem to have been astronomical.

Before describing her second explanation for the ubiquity of myths and symbols, let me pause to express one qualm. Acharya reasons that the elite clergy of all religions, including Catholic Christianity, must have known full well the essentially solar nature of their doctrine at least until the late Middle Ages. The personification of astrological entities would have been the nursery-school version, the exoteric version handed out to the masses. I do not see much reason for thinking so. Personally, I find it more natural to suppose, with many myth scholars (among whom I do not number myself, I hasten to add) that raw myths treated stellar entities as direct characters in symbolic myths, but that in subsequent retellings and reinterpretations, the sun, moon, and stars are transformed into anthropomorphic gods and heroes. Hercules must first have been the sun, period. But then people tend to forget that and to imagine that there was a demigod hero names Hercules. One can still sniff out his solar origins from clear vestiges of it, like the lion's mane he wore (the sun's rays), the twelve labors he performed (the zodiac), and the deadly arrows he shot (sunstroke). But you do have to make the connection, because it is no longer overt. Later, a la Euhemerus, people begin thinking of these figures as real historical individuals whose memorable greatness led to their mythic exaggeration. This seems like a realistic reading of the history of mythology to me. So I doubt that any hierarchy in the Church (or Buddhism, etc.) has realized for a long time the origin of their faith and its symbols.

We will get to Jesus, but let me just note that, even if all the mythic symbolism is originally astronomical, even including divine crucifixion as a symbol of the sun crossing over the equinoxes, that doesn't mean that there couldn't have been a historical Jesus whose followers clothed him in mythic forms first derived from astrology though no longer so understood. Is that likely? Stay tuned.

Acharya also argues that the far-flung similarities between myths and faiths are the result of dissemination. There was borrowing, cross-pollination, at least where travel was imaginable. She accepts the theories of various nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholars to the effect that just about all ancient languages (at least including Hebrew, Welsh, and Sanskrit) were cognate cousins, and that faith communities as seemingly disparate as Buddhism, Druidism, and Essenism represented different branches of a single denomination whose priests were sometimes in communication with one another. It was a conclave of such secret brotherhoods that invented Christianity. Here, I confess, I am way over my head. I am no linguist, much less a comparative linguist. Some of the writers Acharya cites seem to have been grinding an ax, e.g., to demonstrate that all Western culture had roots in Ireland, including the Bible. She quotes Freemasonry apologists who have their own reasons for wanting to see Egyptian connections all over the place. But motive matters not. They might be right anyway. But I can't say. I know I was quite surprised reading Jaan Puhvel's comprehensive Comparative Mythology to see how modern scholarship does trace a wide arc of linguistic and mythic dissemination from India to Ireland. But does Phoenician Baal equal Irish Bel? Do the Samana ascetics of India have anything to do with Semitic sun-worship? I suspect a lot of this amounts to lucky false cognates. But I can't say. I plead ignorance.

Once I read an erudite essay in which a renowned German expert on Islam argued that H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, etc., seem to have been derived from some unknown, hypothetical Arabic translation of a document by Plutarch. Lovecraft's Old Ones equated to the Cabiri. Cthulhu was Kronos, asleep beneath the waves. His undersea prison-palace Rlyeh sounded like Arabic for boiling, the troubling of the waters above such a sunken citadel. He made all manner of connect-the-dots suggestions, all of them very clever, all very striking, but none very likely since Lovecraft almost certainly made all of it up out of his head. What Acharya says sounds good to me, but then so did this. How do I decide? I have my work cut out for me. One thing, though: Max Muller already sought to refute several of the equations Acharya tries to make, following earlier writers, between the Buddhas (enlightened ones) and the ancient Indian sun deity Budha. Likewise, he dismisses the tenability of identifying Odin and the Buddha, something of a stretch on the face of it. All this may be found in Muller's essay "On False Analogies in Comparative Theology." (I must confess I never heard of this important essay until I read Acharya's own discussion of it! I owe her that, too.) And I admit I do not know enough about the issues involved to presume to say who is correct. Again, my point is that the book is a treasury of fascinating points to be pursued, even as the author has done.

I do not see sufficient reason to posit a world-spanning, age-old group of Illuminati, whether associated with the Masons, the Templars, or whomever. Furthermore, it is Acharya's well-argued brief for universal astro-theology that makes the priestly dissemination theory sound superfluous to me. She doesn't really need it.

In my review of The Christ Conspiracy, I said that I found Acharya's case for the supposed crucifixions of Krishna and the Buddha unconvincing. She has, in Suns of God, compiled an astonishing amount of data about both saviors, most of which one will never run across in the typical surveys of Hinduism and Buddhism that we pat ourselves on the back for reading. I am particularly interested in her arguments for the solar-mythic origin of the Buddha, because I take quite seriously the theory (no longer in favor) that there was no one historical founder of Buddhism. But I remain unconvinced that the hagiography of either of these divine gentlemen ever featured a crucifixion or a resurrection. All right, one account of Krishna has him pinned to a tree by an arrow, a la Achilles, but is that really close enough to crucifixion? Maybe so. It seems slippery to me, but that is a subjective judgment call. Then again, it wouldn't be, if the supposed parallel were closer. And there are some line-drawing reproductions of crucifixes found in India, some in modern times, some undatable. But nobody can say for sure who they represent.

Again and again, Acharya finds herself hemmed in by old writers who never elevated their claims above the level of hearsay (as she herself points out). Kersey Graves (The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors) assures the reader that he has before him plenty of original documentation for his claims of crucifixion parallels, but he, er, doesn't have room to include any. And this is the rule, not the exception. Lundy, Higgins, Inman, Graves, Doane, etc., they all claim they have read or heard this or that, but none of them can site a single source document. Acharya seems generously inclined to believe them. I don't. I am not saying they were frauds or deceivers. Acharya suggests that these researchers may have read texts or examined ancient monuments that have since been destroyed by ecclesiastical censors. And she may be right. I certainly wouldn't put it past the Machiavellian ethics of the religious authorities. But did they get rid of all the evidence only after Doane, Graves, and the others had managed to see it? It is not that I distrust these old researchers. It's just that I cannot agree or disagree with their evaluation of evidence they do not share with me.

Again, please keep in mind that I agree with Acharya on the basics: the mythical life of Jesus Christ was derived from many long-standing myths, many or most of them derived ultimately from ancient astronomy. I just don't see convincing evidence for there having been crucifixion stories about Krishna or the Buddha. That is a disagreement between scholars. I am not trying to debunk her as apologists for religious traditionalism try to debunk both of us. But what about Jesus?

As I read through Suns of God, the question occurred to me again and again: Okay, you have demonstrated that there were plenty of crucifixion myths and crucified gods. But does that prove Jesus wasnt actually crucified, any more than it proves Spartacus wasn't? Why couldn't a historical Jesus have been like Spartacus, or better, like Cleomenes, the radical king of Sparta? He was chased off his throne and out of his homeland for advocating land reform. He fomented unrest all over the Eastern Mediterranean until he died in Alexandria. Then they crucified his corpse. Women admirers of the slain king came to his cross to mourn (Plutarch tells us) and swore they beheld a snake crawl up to protect the face from desecration by vultures. Hence, they concluded, he was a son of the gods. I doubt there is any reason to declare Cleomenes a myth. He has the kind of historical rootage Jesus lacks, though we can see how he was already passing into a cloud of legend. Why not Jesus?

Acharya's answer is striking. She is discussing Sir James Frazer's fascinating theory that the gospel character Barabbas and Philo's character Carabbas both reflect an otherwise suppressed late continuation of human sacrifice among Jews, and that all victims, representing the surrogate king in a sacred king sacrifice, were called Barabbas, son of the father. Then she says, It is probable that there was at least one Jesus Barabbas sacrificed in this manner during the decades that the gospel Jesus was said to have lived (p. 462). Even if there were a dozen or more historical Jesuses who had been sacred king sacrifices, it is not their biography being told in the gospel. The gospel tale represents a fictionalized, archetypical account of the ritual murder so commonly committed in the ancient world (p. 463). What this says to me is that the ostensible difference between the Bultmannian view (there was a historical Jesus, of whom we know virtually nothing, because he was lost in a haze of mythical glorification) and the thoroughgoing Christ-Myth hypothesis (there was no historical Jesus, only myths) is moot.

The case would be exactly analogous to that of King Arthur. There may have been a Romano-Celtic chieftain named Arthur whose name is preserved in the Round Table epics, but does that count as a historical King Arthur? There may have been a Celtic bard named Myrrdin, whose name was attached to Merlin the Magician, but would it be meaningful to call him the historical Merlin? Suppose I am watching the film Excalibur with my daughter, and we see Merlin summon up a supernatural fog, then change Uther's visage and cause his horse to ride upon the cloudbank to the castle of Cornwall, and my daughter asks me if Merlin really existed. To paraphrase a Unitarian minister of my acquaintance, I suppose I might answer my daughter, If you want the long answer, yes. If you want the short answer, no. If my daughter and I are watching King of Kings, and we see Jesus walk on water and raise Lazarus from the dead, and she asks me if there was a historical Jesus, I'd have to give her the same answer. I think that is the answer Acharya is giving us, and I agree with her.

For more information, see Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled.

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"Murdock's scholarship is relentless! ...the research conducted by D.M. Murdock concerning the myth of Jesus Christ is certainly both valuable and worthy of consideration." —Dr. Kenneth L. Feder, Professor of Archaeology, Central Connecticut State University, Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience In Archaeology

"I find myself in full agreement with Acharya S/D.M. Murdock... I find it undeniable that...many, many of the epic heroes and ancient patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament were personified stars, planets and constellations..." —Dr. Robert M. Price, The Pre-Nicene New Testament

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"Acharya S deserves to be recognized as a leading researcher and an expert in the field of comparative mythology, on a par with James Frazer or Robert Graves—indeed, superior to those forerunners in the frankness of her conclusions and the volume of her evidence." —Barbara Walker, The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets and Man Made God

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"Ms. Murdock is one of only a tiny number of scholars with the richly diverse academic background (and the necessary courage) to adequately address the question of whether Jesus Christ truly existed as a walking-talking figure in first-century Palestine." —David Mills, Atheist Universe

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