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Esoteric
Christianity

“Believe me, a man
cannot
even see the kingdom of God
without being born again.”
1

By

Norman D.
Livergood

About 25-30 C.E. a
mystical teacher named Jesus began to tell people about a
spiritual realm in which the person who would be leader must
be a servant of all. He spoke of a definite re-birth into a
Higher Consciousness.

Jesus indicated that his message consisted of a public
(exoteric) message for all the people and an advanced
(esoteric) teaching reserved for initiates.

The
Esoteric Tradition

Mark 4:
“Then when they were by themselves, his close
followers and the twelve asked about the parables,
and he told them: ‘The secret of the kingdom of God
has been given to you. But to those who do not know
the secret, everything remains in parables, so
that, seeing they may see, and not perceive; and
hearing they may hear, and not understand lest
haply they should turn again, and it should be
forgiven them.'”

       “So he taught
them his message with many parables such as their
minds could take in. He did not speak to them at
all without using parables, although in private he
explained everything to his disciples.”
[Phillips translation]


Matthew 13: “The man who has ears to hear should
use them”
      “At this the
disciples approached him and asked, ‘Why do you
talk to them in parables?
      “‘Because you
have been given the chance to understand the
secrets of the kingdom of Heaven,’ replied Jesus,
‘but they have not. For when a man has something,
more is given to him till he has plenty. But if he
has nothing even his nothing will be taken away
from him. This is why I speak to them in these
parables; because they go through life with their
eyes open, but see nothing, and with their ears
open, but understand nothing of what they hear.”‘
[Phillips translation]

1 Corinthians 2:6-15: “But we speak the wisdom of
God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God
ordained before the world unto our glory: which
none of the princes of this world knew.

      “We interpret
what is spiritual in spiritual language. The
unspiritual man rejects these truths of the Spirit
of God; to him they are ‘sheer folly,’ he cannot
understand them. And the reason is, that they must
be read with the spiritual eye. The spiritual man,
again, can read the meaning of everything; and yet
no one can read what he is.”

Clement of Alexandria (150-220 C.E.)

“The Lord . . . allowed us to communicate of those
divine Mysteries, and of that holy light, to those
who are able to receive them. He did not certainly
disclose to the many what did not belong to the
many; but to the few to whom He knew that they
belonged, who were capable of receiving and being
moulded according to them. But secret things are
entrusted to speech, not to writing, as is the case
with God.”

“Many things, I well know, have escaped us, through
length of time, that have dropped away
unwritten.”

“Even now
I fear, as it is said, ‘to cast the pearls before
swine, lest they tread them underfoot, and turn and
rend us.’ For it is difficult to exhibit the really
pure and transparent words respecting the true
Light to swinish and untrained hearers.”

Movement Away
from the Authentic Teachings of
Jesus


     After Jesus’ death, those who
understood the genuine teaching of Jesus recognized him as
one of a long line of savants within the Perennial Tradition
2–such
as Hermes and Plato–who initiated chosen disciples into a
mystical rebirth of the soul into a Higher
Consciousness.


     Each Perennialist teacher
interpreted the fundamental message about spiritual
regeneration in terms of the needs of the people during
their age. So we have the Hermetic teachings during the time
of Hermes Trismegistus, the
Mystery
teachings

during the days of Egypt and Greece, Platonism during the
time of Plato, Neo-Platonism during the time of
Plotinus–each an embodiment of the Perennial Tradition. The
genuine, hidden teachings of Jesus–Esoteric
Christianity–is one of those embodiments.

     Early Christianity developed
in the crowded, poverty-stricken cities of Asia Minor,
finding its adherents among the working class and slaves.
Throughout the Roman empire, there was intense social
ferment . In the century before Jesus, a widespread revolt
of slaves led by Spartacus conquered most of southern Italy
and threatened the Roman Empire.


     Within a short time, there
came into being a new
sacerdotal
state-supported Church
3
which misrepresented Jesus as a god. Such genuine adepts as
Paul, Clement of Alexandria, Marcion, Valentinus, and
Origen, understood Jesus’ true teachings and did not view
him as a deity but as a mystical teacher. Those who
instructed initiates in the authentic teachings of Jesus
found it necessary to go underground, because a tyrannous,
bureaucratic “church” was taken over by the Roman Empire and
deformed into a “state religion.”

       During this period,
there developed a large number of writings which claimed to
be authentic representations of Jesus’ life and teachings.
In this morass of confusion, these varied interpretations of
Jesus’ teachings vied for acceptance.



     One of the persons who first
wrote about Jesus was a man who had been an enemy of the
church until he experienced a mystical conversion. Paul saw
himself as an apostle (one sent on a mission), perhaps “the”
apostle, of Jesus. He believed he had actually experienced
Jesus in a mystical encounter during which he was
commissioned to spread the “good news”–the gospel of Jesus’
teaching–presenting a conception of God as forgiving,
loving, and wise.

     Paul was aghast when he
learned that Peter and some of the other apostles of Jesus
in Jerusalem and other cities were interpreting Jesus’s
message as an extension of Judaism, using the Hebrew Old
Testament as a major scripture.


“Paul is
the only one who had any apprehension of the real esoteric
significance of the Christ Myth in its cosmic aspects, while
at the same time he was obliged to base his teachings
principally on the exoteric beliefs of his hearers which
centred round the personal Jesus.”

William
Kingsland. The Gnosis or Ancient Wisdom in the Christian
Scriptures


     Paul
insisted that a person could become a Christian without
submitting to circumcision or other Jewish religious laws
and practices. Paul defined Christianity as the experience
of re-birth in Jesus, a spiritual awakening of the same
nature that he had gone through. Both Jesus and Paul made it
clear that Christianity was decidedly not an extension of
Judaism.

Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Jewish temple

“Christ
himself. . . confirms the Pauline gospel in general and
in detail. Did he not break the law again and again in
his life and through his teachings? Did he not declare
war against the teachers of the law? Did he not call the
sinners, while those teachers desired only righteous men
as their pupils? Did he not declare the greatest prophet
of the Old Testament God, John the Baptist, to be an
uninformed man, one who had taken offense at him? . .
.

“When he forbids the placing of a new patch on an old
garment and the pouring of new wine into old wineskins,
he thereby strictly forbids his people in any way to
connect his preaching with that of the Old Testament. .
.”
4


     Jesus would not have taught
that he was the Messiah promised in the Jewish scriptures.
That concept of an anointed one, as Jesus pointed out,
involved this person becoming an earthly king, a political
ruler. This Christ concept was exclusively a Jewish idea.
But the misguided Christian autocrats were trying to graft
Jesus’ teachings onto Judaism, the creed of one small
nation. To carry this out, the church leaders had
adulterated and garbled the original sayings of Jesus,
adding the phrase “in order that it might be fulfilled” to
everything Jesus did, to “prove” that he was the Jewish
Messiah-King.



The New Testament
“was made in its present form largely in order that it might
conform with the supposed prophecies in the Jewish Old
Testament Scriptures concerning an earthly Messiah, as is
well shown in the numerous statements ‘that the Scripture
might be fulfilled,’ or ‘according to the Scriptures.'”

William Kingsland.
The Gnosis or Ancient Wisdom
in the Christian Scriptures


The Christ
Concept

Jesus preaching to the multitude
     If Jesus used the Christ concept in
reference to himself it would have been in an entirely new,
non-Jewish manner, with different content and meaning. The
koine Greek term Christos simply means “anointed
one,” and Jesus would have considered himself anointed or
commissioned to communicate a specific teaching.

     Thus in the early church a
number of factions had arisen, with Peter and some of the
other original apostles preaching a Judaised, sacerdotal
Christianity requiring no more than belief, while Paul
insisted that Jesus’ teaching was about a spiritual rebirth
such as he had himself experienced.

     Both Jesus and Paul taught
that religion is not mere belief in doctrines but practical
knowledge (gnosis, gnosis) of the way to regain one’s
birthright as a “Son of God” through a radical
transformation process.

      “We
do not become Christs (Christos) because he was
that. We shall never become it simply by believing
that he was that, or that he did all that the
Gospels record; or that he did something for us
which washes away our sins and gives us a short cut
to eternal bliss. No. We shall only achieve the
same likeness when ‘that same mind’ (or ‘word’)
which was also in Christ Jesus has been ‘brought to
birth’ in us also, i.e. when we have realized that
we, equally with him, are essentially divine in our
deepest nature; that we are, equally with him,
‘sons’ of the same ‘Father,’ and are thus able to
manifest as he did that divinity in our very
humanity.”

William
Kingsland. The Gnosis or Ancient Wisdom
in the Christian Scriptures

     
The original teaching of Jesus was thus passed on through
Paul and those whom Paul and his immediate companions taught
in the many cities they visited.

Paul speaking to the men of Athens

“The God
that made the world and all things therein, he, being
Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made
with hands; neither is he served by men’s hands, as
though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to
all life, and breath, and all things; and he made of one
every nation of men for to dwell on all the face of the
earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the
bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if
haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he
is not far from each one of us; for in him we live, and
move, and have our being; as certain even of your own
poets have said.”

Paul Speaking
to the men of Athens (Acts 17:24-28)

 

“The
persecution of the Christians was regarded as a
social necessity by the rulers of Rome; the spread
of the doctrine nourished dangerous discontents and
provided new and effective channels of organization
for the lower classes. Pliny the Younger, who was
governor of Bithynia in the early years of the
second century, wrote to the emperor concerning the
troublesome activity of Christians in forming
collegia or gilds, and he told of torturing two
maidservants in order to get information about
these associations.

The Arch of Constantine

“As
Christianity developed, it gained adherents among
well-to-do craftsmen and merchants, especially in
the cities of the eastern Mediterranean; economic
interest made it imperative for these classes to
oppose the corrupt and oppressive power of the
empire. In joining the Christian movement, they
could restrain its more radical tendencies, and
utilize its organized strength as a defense against
imperial restrictions. The disintegration of the
imperial system forced Constantine to abandon Rome
and move his capital to Byzantium in order to
control the eastern area of trade. At the same
time, he had to adopt Christianity, as the best
means of maintaining his authority over the urban
centers which were the key to the economic
existence of the empire.

“The
adoption of Christianity as a state religion
required a fundamental change in its class
character and ideology. But this was not an easy
task. It could not be accomplished without a
violent conflict between the patrician class which
ruled the empire and the majority who took
Christianity literally as a gospel of equality and
brotherhood. By the time of Augustine, the conflict
had reached a stage of crisis, which threatened to
disrupt the empire.”

John
Howard Lawson, (1950). The Hidden
Heritage

The Triumph of
Pseudo-Christianity


     If you watch a TV history of
Christianity or read a Protestant or Roman Catholic account
of the early church, Christianity’s becoming the official
religion of the Roman state during Constantine’s reign is
considered a great victory. The only measure of success for
these moderns is whether or not a tradition triumphed over
all its competitors. Never mind what distorting of the
original message had taken place or what atrocities the
Church committed. If a particular religion came out on top,
it’s to be considered the best.

     
On the contrary, the formal religion that became known as
the Holy Roman Church was and is nothing but a vast
repository of false teachings and practices. At the present
time, orthodox Christianity, in all its Catholic, Eastern
Orthodox, and Protestant guises, is a horrible deformity of
Jesus’s original teachings.


Constantine presentint the Nicene heresy for Jesus' blessing

“The
Emperor Constantine who, having become a convert to
Christianity, soon made his new faith the official
religion of the Roman Empire, which he ruled from ancient
Byzantium, renamed Constantinople. And so, at about 320
A.D. the Church not only came to glorious power but was
given a clearly God-sent opportunity to revenge itself on
the descendants of those who had persecuted it for almost
three hundred years. Unleashing a reign of terror on
those pagans who stubbornly refused the new faith,
Constantine and the Church waded deep in blood and
apparently enjoyed the experience, for the lions enjoyed
pagans as much as they had Christians and the crosses now
carried different victims.”

Donovan Joyce.
The Jesus Scroll


     Whereas the people Jesus
befriended were the poor and outcast of society, the
bureaucratized “church” began to direct its attentions to
the wealthy and politically powerful. Already by the end of
the first century C.E., Christians in Rome included members
of the Emperor’s household.

     As Paul, Clement, Marcion,
Valentinus, and Origen made clear, the essence of Jesus’s
teaching was the esoteric initiation of a select number into
the mysteries of the “new being.” Within a hundred years
Jesus’s original teachings had been perverted into an
ecclesiastical power system: the “triumph” of
pseudo-Christianity.

“Christianity,
which had been the religion of a community of equal
brothers, without hierarchy or bureaucracy, became ‘the
Church,’ the reflected image of the absolute monarchy of
the Roman Empire.”

Erich Fromm.
The
Dogma of Christ

     The counterfeit interpretation
of Jesus’ teachings became the official, orthodox dogma and
the congregations (those called together) became a
monolithic “church,” a sacerdotal monstrosity supported by
the corrupt Roman emperor Constantine.

     Constantine had adopted
Christianity merely to provide support for his conquest and
rule, so he was furious that there were squabbling factions
within his adopted faith.

The Nicene
Heresy and the Canon



      So, in 325 C.E. three hundred
and twelve bishops were ordered by Emperor Constantine to
work out a creed that would put a stop to theological
bickering. The emperor himself, dressed in a purple gown and
with a silver diadem, opened the council. The Council of
Nicea made it clear that Christianity was to be clearly
distinguished from the pagan Platonic heresy. All Christians
were henceforth required to believe that Jesus Christ was of
the same substance as God (in other words, a god) and only
Christ could bring about humankind’s salvation through a
person’s belief in his sacrifice for their sins.

     As the doctrinal orthodoxy
decreed by such Councils as Nicea became the official
ideology of the Romanized church, the genuine teachers of
Jesus’ original message of transformation found it necessary
to go underground. This hidden tradition is what we now call
Esoteric Christianity.

      “Catholicism
has long been hostile to the notion of any
spiritual power or illumination apart from what is
conferred by its own rites. The official view is
that the sacraments are both necessary and
sufficient for salvation; any talk of higher truths
or initiatic knowledge, however circumspect or
deferential to Catholic doctrine, is considered
subversive. The church tends to regard the esoteric
inner circle not as a deeper dimension of the
external church but as an inimical fifth
column.”

Richard
Smoley, Inner Christianity


Peter the Vicar of Christ
     Even though the Holy Roman
Church dictated what dogmas were official, there was still
the difficulty of a large number of writings about Jesus
which painted very different pictures of him. As the Roman
Empire took over the outer, distorted husks of Jesus’
teachings and turned the church into a tyranny, it selected
only those writings which would support its autocratic
power.

     In the fourth century C.E.,
the Roman Catholic Church decreed which books would
constitute the Official Scriptures–the Canon. At that
point, the books outside the Official Scriptures were known
as non-canonical scriptures.

Clement of
Alexandria, Marcion, Valentinus, Origen, and other genuine
followers of Jesus’ teaching created their own “Gospels,”
the good news
5
 about Jesus, selecting writings which they felt were
central to the original teachings of their master. They
included material which was not in the orthodox New
Testament (as the official scripture came to be called).

     During the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, a large number
6
 of non-canonical Christian writings were discovered in
the Middle East. Many of these writings come from the
non-orthodox tradition of Christianity, especially from the
Gnostic strain. If we are to understand the esoteric
tradition in Christianity, it is essential that we take into
consideration these extra-canonical sources.

“The
Lord did everything in a mystery. . .  He
said, ‘I came to make the things below like the
things above,
7
and the things outside like those inside. I came
to unite them.'”

The
Gospel of Philip (Nag Hammadi
Library)

Many parts of the
New Testament are dogmas added by later sectarians to
support their personal prejudices. For example, many
references to Jesus’ actions as fulfillment of the Old
Testament prophecies were added by persons trying to prove
that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah-King. As we examine the
New Testament discerningly we discover elements which do not
ring true, certain supposed “miracles” and mythological
events that cast Jesus in an unfavorable light.

     It is our responsibility to
determine what is genuine and what is counterfeit in the
early Christian writings, just as we must discriminate in
regard to all teachings. Some of the New Testament and other
early writings constitute a record of spiritual experiences
which are reproducible in our lives. This is especially true
of the central teaching of all these writings: rebirth into
a higher consciousness.

     
“The
real Gnosis. . . is a mystical knowledge and
experience transcending that appearance of things
which the ordinary individual accepts as the only
‘reality.'”

William
Kingsland. The Gnosis or Ancient Wisdom
in the Christian Scriptures

Moses speaking to Hermes
     Jesus’ teachings concerning
the necessity of spiritual rebirth unmistakably parallel the
Hermetic and Platonic writings–as well as other embodiments
of the Perennial Tradition such as alchemy and Sufism. Plato
saw philosophy (the search for wisdom) as the actual
achievement of a higher state of consciousness, gained
through self-discipline and mystical contemplation.
According to Plato, philosophia is the actual
practice of learning to leave the body and live in the soul,
the spiritual body.

     Many of the genuine followers
of Jesus’ teachings, such as Clement of Alexandria, Marcion,
Valentinus, and Origen, were profoundly influenced by
Plato’s mystical concepts. It would be correct to say that
they were as much Platonists as Christians.

     When the Christian faith
became a secularized, sacerdotal autocracy supporting the
depraved Roman emperor Constantine, the hierarchy of priests
and potentates of the Church found it necessary to concoct a
system of dogmas which would separate Christian theology
from Platonism. Thus the councils of Nicea and others and
the resulting doctrinal monstrosities.

Metanoia
and Re-birth


     As we examine the New
Testament and relevant extra-canonical writings, it becomes
clear that Jesus’ original teaching declared that man was a
son of God and could realize his divine sonship through a
special initiation into an experience of spiritual re-birth.
This teaching was unmistakably within the Perennial
Tradition.
8

      The good news (gospel) which
Jesus proclaimed was that humans were in essence one with
God and could realize this divine unity through an esoteric
initiation procedure–after a complete change in their ways
of thinking and acting.

     The word used to describe this
revolutionary transformation in humans was metanoia,
which the Roman Catholic translators mangled into the
Latin-based word “repent.”
9
 It’s impossible to comprehend what this extraordinary
concept of metanoia includes in its meaning unless we
examine its original Greek connotations. Origen initiating neophytes into the death and re-birth experience
It involves a person ceasing to cling to her ordinary life;
old ideas and feelings lose all value for her. The whole
course of her experience takes on a new meaning and leads in
a totally different direction. She DIES completely to her
old way of being and becomes–literally–a new person as she
experiences re-birth.

     The esoteric re-birth
experience could produce the right effect upon the
neophyte’s soul only if she had previously changed her lower
world of experience and consciousness. If she were to be
inducted into the Life of the Spirit where she would behold
a Higher World, this required a prior total, radical
transformation in her way of thinking, feeling,
acting–being in general.

     For most people, the empirical
world of shoes and ships and sealing wax is the only one;
any idea of a higher world is simply a fantasy. Such musings
are “mere” thoughts and ideas. They have no
reality. We can’t touch them or hear or see them. They’re
not “real.”

 


     
“Now of the process of re-birth there is and always
has been a definite and exact science, the
knowledge of which has been the property of the
smallest of minorities and, for adequate reasons,
has not been suffered to be promulgated to the
multitude, although individuals who earnestly
sought for it never failed in discovering it. The
Mystery-schools of antiquity, at least before the
days of their degeneracy, possessed and
administered it; it was the raison d’etre of their
existence, as was well known to the public

of the time, any member of whom, prepared to
abandon secular life and apply himself to the
higher vocation, could seek admission therein. The
Christianity of the first two centuries took over
the doctrine and the science, confirmed and
expanded as they became by the advent of Christ,
but eventually lost them and put in their place the
ecclesiastical machinery and dogmatic theology
which have ruled throughout the subsequent
centuries of European history, with the result that
popular Christianity has for long known nothing of
them. With the enjoinder of the assured necessity
for regeneration proclaimed by the Master of their
faith it and its theologians and pastors are well
familiar. But can it be said that ‘Ye must be born
again’ means for them more than a vague,
mysterious, metaphoric counsel of perfection
capable of being satisfied by living the ordinary
natural life as far as possible in accordance with
the standard of conduct indicated in the Gospels?
Are the words accorded more than a value for
ethical purposes, to the total neglect of the
possibility of their literal practical
fulfilment?”

M. A.
Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and
Alchemy

     Somehow
another idea has to come to us, a message by a person who
knows of a Higher World. She explains that a totally
different relationship to reality is possible–if one
changes his entire way of thinking and acting. A person who
clings at all costs to the ordinary conception of reality
can’t grasp such ideas; he won’t even be interested in
hearing about them. In regard to such people, Perennialist
teachers such as Jesus explain that they have ears to hear
but will not hear and eyes to see but will not see. So
initiation into the re-birth experience is not provided to
them because it would be wasted, ignored, or misused.


     But some people do want to
hear about such ideas; there is a kind of divine discontent
in them. They want to understand their lives in a more
comprehensive way. And they’re capable of making the radical
transformation in their being which is required for this
strange new experience of death to the old life and re-birth
to a new one. Their whole awareness of reality makes a
complete shift.

“The
Truth is yourself, but not your mere bodily self,
Your real self is higher than ‘you’ and ‘me.’
This visible ‘you’ which you fancy to be yourself
Is limited in place, the real ‘you’ is not
limited.
Why, O pearl, linger you trembling in your shell?
Esteem not yourself mere sugar-cane, but real
sugar.
This outward ‘you’ is foreign to your real ‘you;’
Cling to your real self, quit this dual self.”

Rumi, The
Mathnavi


Initiation Into
the Higher Mysteries


The writings of such early Christian teachers as Paul,
Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Valentinus, provide
unquestionable proof that there was an esoteric strain in
Jesus’ teachings. Further, they show that only certain
persons were judged to be eligible for initiation into the
Higher Mysteries–what Paul called resurrection into the
body of Christ.

     The division of Christian
teachings into exoteric–public–and esoteric–secret–was
understood by genuine Christian teachers to be the same as
in other religious and philosophic systems. This is made
particularly clear in Origen’s book Origen Against
Celsus
.

“That
there should be certain doctrines, not made known to the
multitude, which are [revealed] after the
exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of
Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in
which certain truths are exoteric and others esoteric.
Some of the hearers of Pythagoras were content with his
ipse dixit; while others were taught in secret
those doctrines which were not deemed fit to be
communicated to profane and insufficiently prepared ears.
Moreover, all the Mysteries that are celebrated
everywhere throughout Greece and barbarous countries,
although held in secret, have no discredit thrown upon
them, so that it is in vain he [Celsus]
endeavours to calumniate the secret doctrines of
Christianity, seeing that he does not correctly
understand its nature.”

     The
esoteric teachings given by Jesus to selected initiates were
not written down, but were taught orally to those deemed
worthy to receive them, to aspirants who formed small
communities which remained in touch with the central
body.

     The exoteric (public)
teachings were considered to be effective and applicable to
ordinary members of the Christian faith. The rank of
initiate was achieved only by those who not only lived an
exemplary life but also studied all branches of human
knowledge. The initiate was to be a philosopher–a seeker of
wisdom–in Plato’s terms.

“Some who
think themselves naturally gifted, do not wish to touch
either philosophy or logic; nay more, they do not wish to
learn natural science. They demand bare faith alone. . .
So also I call him truly learned who brings everything to
bear on the truth — so that, from geometry, and
music, and grammar, and philosophy itself, culling what
is useful, he guards the faith against assault. How
necessary is it for him who desires to be partaker of the
power of God, to treat of intellectual subjects by
philosophising.”

Clement of
Alexandria, Stromata

Jesus speaking to the rich young ruler
     The initiate must be tested to
see if his interest in the Higher World is genuine or not.
It is possible for a person, hearing these ideas, to allow
himself to be flung into a sense of emptiness, of
nothingness. This is why the teachings are reserved only for
those capable of the rigors of the spiritual life. Otherwise
they would be deprived of what gives them happiness, makes
them feel secure, without receiving anything in
exchange.

     This is why it is absolutely
essential that a person change his entire way of thinking
and acting prior to being initiated into the deeper
mysteries of death and re-birth. The attitude with which we
approach a teaching determines completely what we receive
and understand.

     
“Let a divine being approach you! It may be nothing
or everything. Nothing, if you meet it in the frame
of mind in which you confront everyday things.
Everything, if you are prepared and attuned to it.
What it is in itself is a matter which does not
concern you; the point is whether it leaves you as
you were or makes a different man of you. But this
depends solely on you. You must have been prepared
by the education and development of the most
intimate forces of your personality so that what
the divine is able to evoke may be kindled and
released in you. What is brought to you depends
upon the reception you prepare for it.”

Rudolph
Steiner, Christianity as Mystical
Fact


     By definition, what occurs in
the initiation process is known only by those who have
experienced it and must remain hidden to all others. In an
essay such as this we can discuss only the general features
of this initiation procedure; the actual process takes place
exclusively with a teacher and a thoroughly tested
initiate.

“The
secrecy surrounding the science has been due to the
mental and moral unpreparedness for it on the part of
those content to live the normal life of the world. Save
under glyph and figure, cryptic memorials and allegories,
the details of the experimental process of regeneration
could never be made public, nor can they now.   . .
 And why? Because, apart from the privacy inevitably
attaching to sacrosanctities, it involves perils personal
and general; it lays open the most secret recesses and
properties of the human organism, stripping bare the
quivering roots of the physical and psychic life; it
leads into contact with magnetic forces of terrific
potency from the knowledge and effects of which we are at
present providentially sheltered and safeguarded by the
grossness of our sense-bodies and the limitations those
impose upon us until such time as we become fitted to
function in independence of them.”

M. A. Atwood,
Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy



     The rite of initiation within
Esoteric Christianity consisted in a definite procedure
involving informing the aspirant of certain “mysteries” and
inducing in him a higher state of consciousness.

     Origen speaks of this
procedure as “initiating those who were already purified
into the sacred Mysteries.”

“To those
who have been purified in heart: He, whose soul has, for
a long time, been conscious of no evil, especially since
he yielded himself to the healing of the Word, let such a
one hear the doctrines which were spoken in private by
Jesus to His genuine disciples.”


 Only a small minority of adepts possess operational
knowledge of the science of spiritual
regeneration.
10
 In the initiation process, a knowledgeable, skilled
operator psychically induces a heightened state of
consciousness in the aspirant. The initiate’s higher
consciousness is activated so that it can function in a
necessarily quickened manner. The aspirant is placed in the
psychic condition of a person at the moment of death, his
consciousness withdrawn from externals, restricted to and
focused upon his mind’s internal content, which he is
directed to explore and contemplate.

The
Spiritual Baptism


     From several extraordinary
sources, it appears that Jesus practiced a secret spiritual
“baptism” with specially chosen aspirants. In the Gospel of
Mark (chapter 14) we come upon a strange passage describing
what happened in the garden of Gethsemene as Jesus was
praying and then arrested by the Jewish scribes and
elders.

“Then all
the disciples deserted Jesus and made their escape. There
happened to be a young man among Jesus’ followers who
wore nothing but a linen shroud about his body. They
seized him, but he left the shroud in their hands and
took to his heels stark naked.”



     In trying to make sense of
this strange statement, we must go to the researches of a
biblical scholar named Morton Smith. In 1958 Smith, then a
graduate student in Theology at Columbia University, was
invited to catalogue the manuscript holdings in the library
of the Mar Saba monastery, located twelve miles south of
Jerusalem. Smith discovered a copy of a letter written by
Clement of Alexandria. In the letter Clement mentions not
the familiar canonical Gospel of Mark, but a different,
secret gospel that Mark had written in Alexandria. Clement
said that after Peter’s death, Mark had brought his original
gospel to Alexandria and had written a “more spiritual
gospel for the use of those who were being perfected.”
Clement says this text was kept by the Alexandrian church
for use only in the initiation into “the great mysteries” as
it would “lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of
that truth hidden.”

 

 


 Morton Smith spent a decade examining this Secret
Gospel of Mark and finally came to this conclusion
concerning the special rite of psychic immersion into a new
realm of being:

“Jesus
could admit his followers to the kingdom of God, and he
could do it in some special way, so that they were not
there merely by anticipation, nor by virtue of belief and
obedience, nor by some other figure of speech, but were
really, actually, in.”

Morton Smith,
The Secret Gospel


     Clement quotes from the
Secret Gospel of Mark the tale of a young man who, like
Lazarus, was raised from the dead by Jesus and who later
came to Jesus “wearing a linen shroud over his naked body.”
Clement quotes the Secret Gospel of Mark as stating that
Jesus spent the whole night teaching the young man “the
mystery of the kingdom of God.”


     What
we have, then, is a clear indication that Jesus–and his
authentic followers–practiced a baptismal initiation rite
in which they “immersed” aspirants into a new realm
(kingdom) of Higher Consciousness. Through initiation,
neophytes came into contact with an inner awareness of a
Higher World–their Real Self.

      The images which arose in the
spiritual life of their soul became increasingly real to
them. They began to understand that what their senses see,
hear, and touch is of a lower, impermanent order of reality.
They knew they couldn’t prove what they felt; they could
only tell others about what they had experienced. They
realized that in recounting their experiences to others they
were like a person speaking of perceptions of a world to
which most others are blind.


Think of how it
is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say, “The world outside is vast and
intricate.
There are wheatfields and mountain passes,
and orchards in bloom.
At night there are millions of galaxies, and in
sunlight
the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.”
You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up
in the dark with eyes closed.

……………………………Listen to the
answer.

There is no “other world,”
I only know what I’ve experienced.
You must be hallucinating.”

Jalaluddin Rumi



     It is only after experiencing
entry into the search for the unitive state that one can
begin to discern the authentic parts of the New Testament
and other genuine spiritual literature. It makes it possible
to discriminate between what is real and what is concocted.
Only that which speaks to a dying to self and re-birth to a
Higher Consciousness is understood to be genuine.

     The person initiated begins to
experience a force kindled within him, his true spirit. A
new being has entered him and become active in his life.
Forces slumbering within are awakened; he begins to
experience inspiration from a Higher Source and feels the
necessity to act in such a manner that he can share in the
life of others. Spiritual transformation–re-birth–has
occured, bringing about a change in that part of him that is
open to “intuition,” the voice of “the teacher within.”

     The Perennial Tradition is
alive and well in all its embodiments–Esoteric Christianity
as well as others. The esoteric teachings and practices
which were used by Jesus and his authentic followers are
still being practiced today–but by contemporary
Perennialist teachers in ways which are not easily
recognized by those “who have eyes to see but do not
see.”

“Seek
annihilation and adore change of state.
You have already seen hundreds of resurrections
Occur every moment from your origin till now;
One from the inorganic state to the vegetive
state,
From the vegetive state to the animal state of
trial;
Thence again to rationality and good discernment;
Again you will rise from this world of sense and
form.”

Rumi

Notes

1 John 3:3, J. B. Phillips
translation

2 See
Chapter 13

in The Perennial Tradition, “Jesus As a
Perennialist

Teacher.”

3 The word translated as “church”
in the New Testament is


ekklesia, meaning an assembly called together

(from
the Greek ekkalein: to call forth).

4 Adolf von Harnack, Marcion:
the Gospel of the Alien God
, p. 22

5 The koine Greek term for gospel
is euangelion, the proclaiming of good tidings. Koine
(common) Greek is the language in which most of the early
Christian materials were written. In some parts of this
article I am using my own translation from the koine Greek
original.

6 Horace H. Bradley lists 538
writings that refer to early Christianity in his book
Fragments of the New Testament.
A treasury of Gnostic scrolls was unearthed in 1945 at Nag
Hammadi in Egypt. These documents had been concealed in the
late fourth century, most likely by someone who felt
(reasonably enough) that unless concealed the texts would be
destroyed by heresy-hunting true believers. The best-known
text from the Nag Hammadi treasure trove was the Gospel
of Thomas
. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in
Palestine two years later and have been the target for
squabbling among biblical scholars ever since.

7 “‘The mystical beliefs’ of the
secret societies were, and indeed are, based on the Hermetic
maxim ‘As above – so below’ which teaches that the natural
world is a material reflection of the spiritual. It forms
the esoteric basis for the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries,
Gnosticism, Esoteric Christianity, the Cabbala, the Hermetic
tradition, alchemy and societies such as the Templars,
Freemasons and Rosicrucians.”
Michael Howard, Occult Conspiracy

8 See
Chapter 1

in The Perennial Tradition, “The Perennial
Tradition”

9 The Latin-based word “repent”
means: to feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for
what one has done or failed to do. It’s clear why such a
word would be used in an autocratic system such as the Roman
Catholic Church where penitents (as members are called) are
forced to repent by confessing their sins to a priest. The
priest thus becomes a necessary mediator between God and the
Christian penitent.

10 See
Chapter 21

in The Perennial Tradition, “Regeneration Into a
Higher Consciousness”