Glimpses of Esoteric Christianity Part 1
There is more to Truth and Reality than what elementary minds would want to pursue and consider. It often seems more comfortable to sit in the dark where we see nothing than to face the blinding light. Is the blindness the same in both cases? The former is blissful ignorance, the latter an initial shock--but one that eventually offers solace to the soul. It is the courageous individual that seeks Truth no matter how painful or shocking it may be. In this paper we do not pretend to represent Truth, we simply give directions to it. Because there are those that seek Truth, humankind may be categorized into two distinct groups:
1) "The Many," the believers, those who are devoted and satisfied with the dogmas of their creed and resistant to any teachings that contradicts and upsets their beliefs and faith, including the higher revelations of the Paraclete, or the Holy Spirit.
2) "The Few," the seekers, those who are jaded with irrational faiths and creeds that do not satisfy the intellect nor the growing conscience of the inner self, and who seek spiritual knowledge and experience to fill the empty heart of spiritual yearning. St. Martin, the co-founder of Martinism, calls this second group, "Men of Desire."
Realizing this division within humankind ever since the spring of existence, the higher intelligences that oversees the evolution of man instituted religions with dual sections that catered to the two types of men. It has been acknowledged by the spiritual guardians, the "Minor Spirits" of Martinism that the masses of man are as yet too puerile to participate in their own salvation and the unfoldment of their divinity. Only the few had the capacity of doing so. Religion, therefore, has its mysteries, an esoteric side to its nature, established for the nurture and nourishment of those few who were qualified to receive the higher teachings that would stimulate the awakening and unfoldment of their divine consciousness, their seed potential of Christhood, or Buddhahood, and establish them firmly on the path of discipleship, that they may become initiates of the Holy Spirit.
"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." (1Co:2:7)
Religion, to be of value, should reach the hearts of men standing at various grades of the evolutionary ladder, as depicted in the symbolism of Jacob's dream. Its doctrines and precepts should include both elementary and advanced teachings of Cosmic laws that would assist man in fulfilling the ancient threefold injunction: "Know thyself, know thyself as God, and know they enemy." Teachings suitable for the few are called "esoteric." St. Paul called such manna "meat," in contradistinction to the "milk" suitable for the many--or the "babes"--those whose soul-experience, personal evolution, and consciousness are still on the elementary level. Origen, one of the early Fathers of Christianity, taught that only when the members of the church's congregation ceased to do evil would the esoteric side, or secret mysteries be revealed. Sinners were told not to sin, but notwithstanding the simplicity of this precept, the early Christian following found it difficult to put this teachings into practice, and sincere seekers, as a result, became scarce. Gradually, the portal of the "strait and narrow gate" was closed and withdrawn from the Christian institution and its existence forgotten by lay members and priesthood alike. The "keys" to the Kingdom of Heaven were no longer in the hands of the Apostle Peter's successors--the very nature of these "keys" are unknown to most religious representatives of God, even more so to the lay follower. The latter is unconscious of its existence.
Nowadays, blind leaders mislead their equally blind followers with a salvation based on a false interpretation of the scriptures. But this condition has actually always existed in the past in the temples of religious instruction. The Master Jesus was very vocal regarding these mis-leaders of the Spiritual Law.
Religion in its original intent, was meant to convey to the minds and hearts of man at a certain point of his mental and spiritual development the Secret Wisdom of the Ages. Humankind is expected to be responsible for their own salvation and freedom from the bondage of matter. Since man is evolving and progressing toward the Light, revelation would need to be continuous to satisfy man's constant inquiry, growing awareness and comprehension of the Nature of Being, the ontology of his Soul. Resistance to further revelations of the "Comforter," is an act of fanaticism and causes the evolutionary impulse of the resisting one to stall and prolong the sleep of consciousness in the tomb of matter. It was the opposition of gnosis, the Ancient Wisdom, and progressive revelation that caused the esoteric side of religions, particularly Christianity, to withdraw formally from the outer, exoteric work and form themselves into secret societies and Orders, preserving the secret teachings in their archives. It is the esoteric side of religion that infuses life into the institution as a whole. Religion without the mystical aspect, becomes a farce, a sham, and a fertile field for corruption. Dogmas and foundationless beliefs and faiths simply insult human intelligence, and the rebellion of the human soul struggling for enlightenment occurs as a natural result.
Prophets and sages, exponents of gnosis, founded religions and societies with the intention of leading the masses several steps forward in their ascension towards the Light. They even gave hints of an advanced method that would accelerate the spiritual development of those who would tread such a path. The Master Jesus offered the "strait and narrow gate." Jeremiah acting as Omneity's scribe and mouth-piece, suggested that humankind ". . . ask for the ancient paths. (Jer 6:16)" Many stories to be found in the scriptures are representative of manuals of practical spiritual techniques of development. For instance we have, Jacob's Ladder; Elijah's mount experience; the various stages of Moses' encounters with Divinity; the Merkabah or sky-chariot of Ezekiel; Jesus's 40-day fast on the Mount with Satan; the events in Jesus's life, etc.
Many of the precepts, rites, tenets, and principles of Christianity originated from old religions and Mystery Schools. This fact may be discerned should a study of comparative religions be undertaken. For instance, the doctrine of heaven and hell, the last judgment, the mediation of the Logos on behalf of humanity's salvation, and the Eucharist--all have their counterpart in the cult of Mithras, Zoroastrianism and the Essenes. It is also in the field of probability that the illumined minds of the founders of religion were enlightened with the same illumination of the Spirit concerning Cosmic laws of the universe that directs every spark of God. This would account for the many similarities between various religions. Truth is eternal and immutable, as it is One. The manner Truth is conveyed may vary from culture to culture, from age to age, but its essential nature is forever the same. Founders of religions were, and are, extraordinary beings from the perspective of an unenlightened humanity. However, each and every enlightened-one teach of the possibility of man attaining the very same state of divine godhood by unfolding his spiritual potential and emulating the great ones who incarnate to show the Way, to Moksha, to Freedom.
Part of the Ancient Wisdom or the gnosis of the Bodhisattvas, were recorded in ancient scriptures such as the Avesta, the Vedas, the Tao Teh Ching, the Book of Dzan, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and many other books considered apocryphal. Certain aspects of the Ancient Wisdom was conveyed orally from Master to chela, such as the Qabalah of Judaism, for instance.
Esoteric Christianity, as a practical collective-stream corresponding to bhakti, raja, jnana, kundalini, laya, and karma yoga, is the gnosis taught by Master Jesus to an inner circle of students. Its precepts and doctrines are based on the Ancient Wisdom. Jesus, however, revealed more advanced aspects of the gnosis for the disciples of the new dispensation, the Piscean and the Aquarian Age. And yet, even to his most foremost disciples he declared that there were higher teachings which they were not as yet qualified to receive:
"I have many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now." (John 16:12)
Here Jesus hints at the continuity of revelation, and the promise that higher teachings shall be given at the appropriate time. We may well ask, "are the present votaries of Christianity receiving these teachings in this present age?" Is the nature of these teachings known?
There was a traditional belief in the early days of the Church's inception that Jesus remained with his disciples for a considerable period after his ascension, for the purpose of instructing them further on the gnosis. A gnostic work titled "Pistis Sophia" declares that Jesus was with his disciples for eleven years after the resurrection. St. Iraneus, bishop of Lyons, concurred with this belief, even though he attacked most, if not all, of the other gnostic ideas. In his book "Against Heresies," he wrote that the Apostles themselves testified that Jesus lived to an old age. In connection with this, one wonders at the report of Jesus' grave being in Srinagar, India, as pointed out by local natives living in the area.
According to a modern school of Esoteric Christianity, the gnosis transmitted from Initiator to candidate were divided into two parts:
1) The Purifying Mysteries--for the sinner who wishes to be cleansed of karmic tendencies and stains.
2) The Illuminating Mysteries--for those who wish to probe and comprehend reality and Maya; the microcosm and the macrocosm, etc.
Initiators of the spiritual gnosis are the mythic Peters that guards the pearly gates of Heaven. They hold the keys of illumination, knowledge and the principles that would assist the candidate to enter Heaven, the Kingdom of God within his consciousness--exactly where Jesus pointed out where it would be--within oneself and not in the afterlife or in some physical location on earth. His parables are enough to convince one of this.
The existence of esoteric teachings within early Christianity were mentioned by certain Church Fathers such as Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Ignatius. They praised the mystical teachings highly and would have proclaimed them from rooftops had it not been for the opposition of the dull minds of worldly men, some of whom were appareled in priests' habit. This in fact was done by Origen, and he was anathemized centuries later by the Emperor Justinius who presided over the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553 AD. Many of Origen's works were put to the flames. We had previously mentioned how the gnosis was withdrawn from public awareness. The various church councils convened throughout the centuries, later supplanted the gnosis with impious creeds and dogmas which no longer reflected the original teachings of Jesus.
Among students of esotericism there are those who consider Joseph of Arimathea to have been the guardian of the esoteric church of Christianity, just as "Peter" was considered to be the leader of the temporal church. The esoteric church was called the "Secret Church of the Holy Grail." As the story goes, Joseph, a secret disciple of Jesus, journeyed to Glastonbury, England, taking along with him certain relics said to be filled with divine virtue. Among these relics was the grail, the chalice used by Jesus during the "Last Supper;" and the spear that wounded him while he was hanging on the cross. Because of corruption within the church in subsequent years, the Grail disappeared from the physical plane. The Order of the Knights of the Round Table was established by King Arthur and Merlin for the quest of the Grail. In truth, the search probably occurred within the Soul, for the Grail, from one point of view, symbolizes a spiritual principle in man's being. It is said that only the pure may see God. Sir Galahad, the young Knight who found the Grail, according to one version of the Grail legend, represented the purified nature of man. Only in such a purified state is it possible for man to "see" God--and live--to live, but no longer as an ordinary mortal, for the lower aspects of his being would have "perished" in God's consuming, transmuting flame.
The Order of the Grail was not the only branch of Esoteric Christianity. Gnostics claim that they too, were bequeathed the secret teachings of Jesus, with a "Doctrine of the Heart," transmitted to them via lesser known apostles such as Thomas and Mark. In the mind of Gnostics, Peter always represented the exoteric side of Christianity. Some Gnostics affirm that Simon Magus was the founder of Gnosticism. Nothing much is known about this mysterious personality except that in Acts in the New Testament he clashed with Peter in a psychic battle and was vanquished. Many believe that this story was fabricated by the priests of exoteric Christianity to discredit Gnosticism as a whole.
Gnosis, from which the word Gnosticism is derived, comes from the Greek word 揋nostikos," which means one who has knowledge. It is defined by Bishop John Bricaud in his book Esoteric Christian Doctrine as,
"The supreme religious science, that is the true knowledge of the three worlds, divine, spiritual, material, as well as their relationships."
Gnosticism presents to students secret methods of inquiry and entry into the soul's inner depth. Beliefs and mere faith were not advocated in the teachings of the Gnostic Masters.
St. Iraneus, as mentioned earlier, attacked Gnostics for their mystical notions. He declared their spiritual literary works, their gospels, as being full of blasphemy. It is easy to discern why Iraneus was opposed to their doctrines. Gnosticism offered seekers direct access to Omneity, and this very condition undermined the position of the priesthood as the supposed intermediaries, as the only so-called valid way for seekers to approach God. Gnostics on their side, opposed the three-fold system established within orthodox Christianity: doctrine, ritual, and the church hierarchy. The ancient Gnostics were individuals who sought knowledge and wisdom, pragmatically, through personal experience. From their standpoint, the doctrines taught by Jesus were more important than the man himself. The historical reality of Jesus was not a matter of any great import. The mystical and mythical Christ were their sole concern, their only guides and ideal. The laws of God, our relation to Truth and Reality--to Gnostics were more important than the personality of the exponent of those revelations. To them, the second coming of Christ takes place mystically, within the consciousness of one's being. Basilides, Valentinus, Marcus, and Marcion were some of the eminent Gnostics that shaped Gnostic thought.
Gnosticism, like many other cults and societies, ended in many schisms, caused by differences in the interpretation of Truth. Absolute Truth is inapprehendable by human intellect. Relative truths have this strange characteristic of presenting various facets of Absolute Truth that from one perspective appear true, from another appear false, and yet from another, makes no difference at all.
In 1945, in Egypt, at Nag Hamaddi, certain gnostic manuscripts were discovered, among which was the Gospel of Thomas. This work consists of a collection of sayings of Jesus, and is regarded by some scholars as the primary source of Jesus' sayings to be found in the four canonical gospels. We will discuss briefly some of the sayings to be found in the Gospel.
"Blessed is the lion which a man eats so that the lion becomes a man. But cursed is the man whom a lion eats so that the man becomes a lion." (Gospel of Thomas Saying No.7)
The meaning of this saying is similar to saying No.116:
"Cursed is the flesh that depends on the soul, and cursed is the soul that depends on the flesh!" (Ibid. Saying No.116)
The carnal self, or the bestial nature within man is often portrayed as a lion. Alchemical writers of the past made use of this symbolism profusely. To consume a lion is the process of transmuting and sublimating man's lower impulses. This is in accord with the evolutionary urge which is prompted by the higher impulses of man's spiritual nature. Conversely, to allow animal instincts to rule and tyrannize the higher aspects of our being is to figuratively, be consumed by the lion by allowing its persona to be superimposed upon our Real Self. This in a sense is worshipping an idol, a false god, that misleads man's senses and consciousness within the labyrinth of Maya. Man should identify himself with his Atma, his spiritual nature, and not conclude that his lower principles with their desires are his Reality. Attachment to the flesh results in suffering and sorrow, and man is cursed by such conditions that binds his soul to the wheel of birth and rebirth, as graciously pointed out to us by Gautama, the Buddha. This divine messenger of God gave us the eight-fold path as a way of escape from the turmoil within the soul. The Christ gave us the prime commandment to love, which if lived and applied within our thoughts and feelings, would yoke the Fragment to the Whole.
"Blessed is the man who has laboured; he has found life!" (Ibid. Saying No.63)
Man's objective consciousness is in a state of death--spiritual death. He moves, and thinks within God's being like a zombie. Blind to spiritual realities and verities, and to his divine potential, man relies excessively upon an irreligious science and an unscientific religion that dulls as well as stimulate his mind and emotions with an artificial, mechanized living that degrades the soul. Life is Reality, and those who seek the greater life must labour in the vineyard of the soul to awaken the consciousness of the Kingdom of God. All that is temporal, transient, is unreal. Nothing in this three-dimensional world is Real in the absolute sense of the word, for everything is in a state of fluctuation, of becoming. The Real does not change. The dependency on conditions, relations, and objects in this unreal world for one's mental and emotional well-being and security eventually upsets the equilibrium of body, mind, and soul, and results in inharmony, in sickness, and in suffering. Illness is an absence of the bountiful force of Life. God is Life, and Life in the physical vehicle of man is to be found in the blood. The denial of God's existence within and without us is to deny the very foundation of our existence, the very life-force within our being. According to one school of thought, disintegration occurs on a spiritual level to all the principles or components comprising man should this denial be a constant state incarnation after incarnation. The closest proximity that such an unfortunate being could get to the life-essence, hence God, to survive spiritually, is by blood-shed. This explains the acts of depravity of those who indulge in blood-sacrifices, vampirism, and murder.
Matter provides a great challenge to the Ego. It offers resistance to its etherealization, the accomplishment and mastery of which awards man with the unfoldment of his Christhood. No other being can accomplish this for us by proxy. We precipitated this condition for ourselves by our demand of free-will in the higher states of existence. It is the mission and prerogative of man to save his soul and thus acquire a greater life, a greater consciousness, a greater state of being, and to secure for himself a permanent place in the Kingdom of God as a pillar of perfection.
"He who is near me is near the fire, and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom." (Ibid. Saying No.86)