If you venture trans Tiberim to the Church of of our Lady ... possibly the oldest of Rome's churches ... you will see such fantastic mosaics (Cavallini) that you might miss the splendid rows of ancient pillars with Ionic capitals. It is not certain whence they were 'sourced' but one hypothesis is that they came from a nearby Temple of Isis. This is supported by the fact that, originally, they included little carvings of Isis and Osiris and Horus.
Originally ... because Blessed Pius IX employed a sculptor to remove the pagan imagery.
There were no flies on Pio Nono. What is holding up his canonisation?
Isis was an originally an Egyptian goddess, but in the three centuries of 'Ptolemaic', Greek, rule over Egypt, she had been transformed into an international Greek deity, and, in her hellenised form, was one of the favourite, most fashionable, objects of worship throughout the mediterranean world. The heart of her cult, which might make it seem right-on to some moderns, was that she excluded no other divinity. In fact, she was every other divinity. All people worship the same mighty Deity, so Isiac devotees explained, but they do so under varied names and with differing ceremonies. But we are all, they assured us, worshipping the same Ultimate Divine Reality. "Quoquo nomine, quoquo ritu, quaqua facie te fas est invocare", as one worshipper addressed her. In her reply, the Gracious One listed many of the names under which she was invoked ... Minerva; Venus; Diana; Proserpina; Ceres; Juno ... But the Egyptian do have a bit of an edge: "caeremoniis me propriis percolentes, appellant vero nomine Reginam Isidem".
Yes, followers of Isis taught; we all worship the same One, but under varied names and with different ceremonies ... but the Cult of Queen Isis is the truest and the best. There is nothing exclusive here; one ancient papyrus (P Oxy 1380) lists literally hundreds of her aliases. Adhere to any of them ... to as many as you like ... and you can do so simultaneously. One of her Greek titles was Polyonumos: She of Many Names. Pachamama can be added to the list of names without the tiniest problem!!
This is the religious system known as Syncretism. It is tolerant ... it is inclusive. It is, I understand, the essential dogma of Freemasonry. And when PF signed a document which applauded Diversity of Religion as being the will of God, I came the closest I have ever been to feeling that PF is a syncretist apostate and therefore manifestly cannot be pope. I quickly recovered! You'll find no sede-nonsense in my writings! Load of silly rubbish! That is why I do not allow it in Comments. But it remains true that his creation of such a blasphemous ambiguity was one of the most truly terrible moments in what has been a consistently terrible pontificate.
But why are Christianity and Syncretism so totally and radically incompatible? I hope to deal with that in the second part of this piece.