Due to recent archeological discoveries, it is now believed that the Historical Christ and early Christians sought mystical enlightenment through Gnostic pursuits. These teachings which came largely from eastern philosophies included sexual ritual, and due to their abandonment of temporal and material concerns, were seen as a threat to the power structures of the time.
A modern equivalent may be the hippy movement of the 60's with it's "tune in-drop out" philosophy. With the rise of the Roman Church according to the writings of Saul/St.Paul, Gnostic Christianity was forced underground, and its rituals were tainted by labels of Occultism and Satanism. Gnostic teachings survived mainly in secret, though their influence can be strongly seen in the Celtic Christian tradition, whose Bibles display the crucified Jesus with an erection.
This symbolism is wholly consistent with carvings found in medieval churches depicting monks and priests in sexual poses with erotic women, performing homosexual acts, or wearing the heads of animals. Incidently, the earliest evidence of any Christian symbolism is an etching found in ancient Rome of a crucified figure with the head of a donkey.
In 1946 Professor Gregory Webb of Cambridge University was appointed to survey war damage to ancient churches in Southern England. In one church he found a German bomb had dislodged the top of the altar, revealing the interior for the first time since the 14th Century. Inside Webb and his team discovered a stone image of a phallus which had been carefully concealed within the hollowed interior. Webb thought this discovery was unique, but began to examine other churches for signs of Gnosticism and Paganism. In 90 percent of all pre-Reformation (ie. Catholic) churches built before the end of the 14th Century, when the bubonic plague stopped all church building, Webb discovered the altars hid fertility symbols which dedicated the Christian churches to the old Pagan religion and Gnosticism. Undoubtedly the churches of other European countries hold similar secrets.
Christian Gnosticism exploded in the 12th Century when the people of Europe recognized the similarities of its rituals and teachings with those of their own traditional Pagan nature cults. The most significant of the Gnostic teachings to survive this fusion were those of "Duality". These philosophical concepts stated that a natural separation existed between Darkness and Light.
Darkness manifested itself in all the forms of the physical world, while the Light existed outside of the physical world, in the mystical realms of "God".
The Cathars of southern France were the most prominent Gnostic Christian community at the time, and taught that this world was in fact "Satan's World". They denounced all the material things of this world in their pursuit of transcendence, not unlike the "hippie communes" of the Sixties, or the "Buddha field" communities of Indian gurus like Osho (who's fate during the Reagan years mirrored that of the Cathars). When the Roman Catholic Church wiped out over a million Cathars, their Gnostic philosophy managed to survive within Pagan nature beliefs, which built upon these concepts according to its own traditions. Thus Satan, who had created and ruled over this world according to Cathar beliefs, fused with Pagan ideas of the horned and hoofed Pan, ruler of Nature and Fertility.
Pagan nature worship included fertility rites and sex ritual, and therefore sat comfortably with Christian Gnosticism, although the complex Gnostic ideas of Duality became confused. Rather than a separation of Light and Darkness existing between this world and another esoteric world, the separation was brought entirely into this world. Satan was seen both as Creator of this world, and Destroyer within it, much as the Indian Hindu deities embody both creative and destructive powers, mirroring the opposing patterns of Nature. But from an orthodox Judeo-Christian perspective, when Pan was replaced by Satan, it was the power of Darkness that was now being worshiped, leading to much confusion and persecution.
These trans-Pagan ideas were embraced by aristocratic alchemists and occultists with the development of Rosicrucianism, and the "Secret Church" societies such as the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar, and the Dragon Court. But instead of denouncing the "Rex Mundi" or "King of the World", as the Cathars had mockingly referred to him, Satan was now worshiped as the Power behind the Universe, and naively seen as the only pathway to the Divine.
According to alchemical philosophy, Satan and his demons are regarded as mediators between Man and an inaccessible God.
When modern Christian ideas of morality began to use Satan as a metaphor for evil, the relatively innocent Pan/Satan icon of the Pagan nature religion took on a more sinister role, reversing simple human concepts of good and evil, social ethics and morality, into complex alchemical ideas of demon raising, "deal doing", sacrifice, and magick. Simply put, when Satan becomes the mask of Evil, as opposed to Christ being the mask of Good, he requires his followers to worship him through dark pursuits.
Lost was the truly Gnostic epiphanies experienced and communicated through "Love", "Joy", "Bliss" and "Ecstasy", nowhere to be found amongst the vocabulary of the occultist. The predatory nature of those attracted to the Dark Side find "Power" and "Magick" more appealing than the true pursuits of the early Gnostics, whose enlightenment only survived by being hidden in the metaphor and symbolism of Troubadour songs, poetry, and art of 11th, 12th and 13th Century southern France, which has quietly influenced and informed subsequent generations of artists and scholars, eager to understand the meaning of Life.