Saul of Tarsus

In the same vein as the Matrix narrative, a similar but real and historical narrative was recorded in the New Testament, in one of the books called the Acts of the Apostles. There was a Hebrew man named Saul who was brought up in the 1st century AD in a very devout and strict religious world called Phariseeism. This religious group was very zealous in the strictest observance of external religious rules derived from their interpretation of the laws as written in the Books of Moses from the Old Testament. In his zeal for answering the same existential question for himself, he went to their centre of teaching in Jerusalem where the most renowned teachers of that time were training other would-be teachers in the observance of Phariseeism. As he describes it himself in one of his letters, he said that he was a student, a disciple of a well-known teacher of Phariseeism called Gamaliel. This was the world that Saul lived and breathed where he was certain he had found the answer to his own question of “What is the point of our life?”.


At around the same time, there was another teaching which speaks of another world that was widely gaining popularity in the vicinity of Jerusalem of an itinerant teacher called Jesus of Nazareth. This teaching was viewed by the followers of Phariseeism with deep suspicion and outright hostility as it overturned their entire worldview and the certainty of their conviction. The depth of their hostility was exemplified by their leaders, who concocted a plan to murder Jesus of Nazareth by framing him to the local Roman occupation forces as the leader of a political rebellion who should be punished with the death sentence. Their wicked plan initially succeeded in the capture and execution of Jesus of Nazareth by hanging on a cross.


However, a few days later, the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth unexplainably started telling everyone that Jesus is not dead but has resurrected as he said before his capture and execution in Jerusalem. Moreover, Jesus appeared to more than 500 of his disciples which increased their own zeal in telling others about the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, about this other world that was in direct contradiction to the world taught by Phariseeism. This infuriated the leaders and followers of Phariseeism, including Saul and they started openly persecuting the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, killing some of them, imprisoning some and beating and threatening others. Incidentally, the killing and physical harm of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth neither silenced nor stopped their message about this other world but produced the opposite effect of attracting more people to this other world.


Saul himself participated in the mob execution of one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth called Stephen. Stephen was cornered outside Jerusalem and killed with stones as per the custom of the Pharisees. Saul stood there and watched while Stephen was stoned to death, which was in a manner that was most unusual and other worldly. Saul had started to appreciate that this other world of Jesus of Nazareth was diametrically opposed to the constructed straight-laced world of Phariseeism that he lived in. He started to see the cracks in the edifice of this constructed world but he still fought to maintain it, to keep it from crumbling; it was the purpose of his life. 


He then travelled from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest disciples of Jesus of Nazareth who had fled there and bring them back to Jerusalem. On his way to Damascus, something happened to him which initiated him into the world that the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were telling everyone about.


As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (The New Testament, Acts 9:3-9)


After Saul’s experience of the reality of the world beyond Phariseeism, there was no turning back for Saul to the constructed world of Phariseeism but he decided in the depths of his soul to remain in this new world, which is reality itself. As was promised, someone came to him and led him permanently into this new world, through the waters where he was fully immersed.


And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. And having risen up, he was baptised. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. (The New Testament, Acts 9:17-19)