The “Jesus of Faith” Vs the “Jesus of History” part 3:1– Initiation and Incubation
“Say, ‘I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven; but my race is of Heaven [alone]’”
I have been sharing a perspective of the eighteen missing years of Jesus’ young adulthood from religious historian Michael Baigent’s book The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. In my last post, we explored a possible scenario that Jesus spent those years in Egypt—possibly living in a community of healers called the Therapeutae. I will continue to share Baigent’s perspective of events in Egypt that Jesus might have know about and even explored experientially.
Pyramids for Soul Travel
The Egyptians saw themselves as keepers of the balance and harmony of our universe. The Pharaoh bore the primary responsibility in this keep and the pyramids were his means of traveling to the Far-World for wisdom from the gods. Michael Baigent gives details of this travel from information gained during several pilgrimages he made to the pyramids in Egypt and other sites of historical interest.
To ALL OF US “PILGRIMS,” it is evident that the Pyramids are more than just the extravagant tombs we have been led to believe they are. Stephen Quirke states bluntly that the Pyramids, along with many other buildings that disintegrated over time, formed part of an ornate complex dedicated to the cult of the pharaoh as a divinity, adding that “they are only secondarily tombs.” The Pyramid of Djoser and other buildings in the complex at Saqqara, he explains, provide “unambiguous evidence” for their ritual use—in this case, for the Sed festival, a great festival held every thirty years or so that aimed to renew the power of the pharaoh.”
The most significant study of the cult of the pharaoh has recently been completed by Dr. Jeremy Naydler and presented in his book Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts. He explains that the Sed festival was conducted to allow the pharaoh to bring the physical world and the Far-World into harmony, a balancing that would benefit all of Egypt. The “central rite” of the Sed festival “involved the king crossing the threshold between worlds,” with the aim of bringing himself into a “direct relationship to the normally hidden spiritual powers.” To allow this to happen, during the most secret parts of the ritual ceremony it appears that the king had “an ecstatic visionary experience.” This experience was deliberately induced by those conducting the rites, who well understood the linkage between the two worlds and the importance of the pharaoh as a point of contact between the two.
Naydler is blunt: his conclusion from his study of the Pyramid Texts is that “far from being funerary texts, [these texts] were primarily concerned with mystical experiences of a type similar to those that the living king had during the ‘secret rites’ of the Sed festival, for they can clearly be seen to belong to a genre of archetypal human experiences at the crossing point between this world and the spirit world.”
One of these texts reads: “O king, you have not departed dead, you have departed alive.” Another reads: “I have gone and returned. . . . I go forth today in the real form of a living spirit.” Yet another text is entitled “Ascending to the sky . . . . and becoming an Akh.”
The Akh is “the shining one,” a “being of light,” and is the root of the word akhet, or “horizon.” It describes the end sought by the Ba: to convert into pure spiritual radiance. In terms of the dead, it reveals that the person after death, following a period when he is free of his body in his Ba [soul] form, eventually ascends to enter a state of transcendence and merges with the radiant Source of all. Stephen Quirke explains that “the akh is the transfigured spirit that has become one with the light.” The word used in the texts for this process is sakhu—meaning “to make [the deceased] an Akh … a being of light.”
As Baigent points out, scholars would dispute this experiential approach to texts and rites and relegate it all to “millennia of imaginative speculation” by priests who may have believed what they were writing but didn’t ascribe to the actual possibility of such occurrences Naydler nevertheless suggests that the experiences of crossing the threshold of death while yet alive were indeed possible and real. Baigent writes:
IT IS HERE THAT I am reminded again of the unique term “ahket of Khufu” applied to the Great Pyramid of the pharaoh Khufu at Giza, which I referred to at the beginning of the chapter. Could this name, meaning “to blaze, to be radiant,” and indicating the point of entry into the Far-World on the horizon, possibly suggest that the pyramid was the place from which Khufu passed into the Far-World? And the place from which he returned?
With the responsibility of maintaining Ma’at upon him, could it be that Khufu sought answers from the spiritual beings in the realm beyond on how to ensure harmony in this world? And if he did indeed cross the threshold into the kingdom of gods, how did he do it? What specific techniques were known to the Egyptian priests who assisted Khufu and other Egyptians before and after him?
It is quite possible that Jesus himself visited the Great Pyramid of Giza (pronounced jeeza) and went through the ritual by which he initiated the process of revelation of his radiant divinity, which he revealed later on with three of his closest disciples, as the Gospels of Matthew and Mark both record. Jesus apparently crossed over the threshold between heaven and earth and visited with two great beings, Moses and Elias, with whom he had a conversation. He was “transfigured before them: and his face did shine like the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matt 17:2) How did he do this? And when and where did he initiate this process of transfiguration and revelation of his radiant divinity? Could it have been inside the Great Pyramid of Giza? Was not his mission, like the pharaohs such as Khufu, to bring balance and harmony back to the relationship between heaven and earth? Perhaps to restore harmony and balance between the planet itself and the solar system – or Solar Entity, as I prefer to call it?
Rites of Initiation
Golden plates were found in graves in Thessaly, Greece, that speak of a celebration or ritual “performance by the ‘blessed ones” that took place underground. The “blessed ones” are written about as being “’The Holy Ones, who understand the mysteries.’ Meaning, it is evident, those who had been initiated.” One plate reads: “O fortunate and blessed one, you are a god, no longer mortal.” Another plate reads: “Say, I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven; But my race is of Heaven [alone]”–advice given to a Far-World traveler to prepare him for any query about who he was.
We cannot avoid it: we are forced to take seriously the idea of initiation in underground chambers, and of initiates sharing with the dead secret rites and knowledge. This is a strange claim for a modern person to take seriously, but we must view the ancients in their own terms: this is how they explained what happens, and there seems to have been little ambiguity or doubt involved. Simply because we find it hard to believe is no reason to think that they misunderstood what was occurring, or worse, that they made it up as part of a “pious fraud.” All the evidence at our disposal leads to the conclusion that those who passed through the initiation ceremonies felt that they had been well served. There are no reports of disgruntled initiates demanding their money back.
Perhaps it is time now to look at how the priests did it—that is, how they helped initiates actually leave their bodies and travel to the Far-World.
There was a ritual performed in underground chambers, facilitated by Egyptian priests, called the “initiation,” which included a process of “incubation,” whereby those who wished to cross over to the Far-World and “be introduced to the divine secrets” could do so and return safely. This was performed in underground sanctuaries accessible by way of tunnels. Baigent relates it to an interesting classic story:
These initiates, as they were called, would enter, take the right-hand path—which was always recommended in the ancient texts—and be rowed along an artificial river to reach the inner sanctuary, which served as the doorway or portal into the netherworld they sought and the kingdom of the gods. To return, the initiates could pass back across the river. In the meantime, the alternative tunnel provided the priests of the site direct access to the sanctuary, where they would wait for the initiates to arrive.
It was all rather reminiscent of the visits to the underworld that classical writers had described. They began with accounts of visitors to the infernal regions being rowed across the River Styx by the silent boatman Charon. Then, after entry into the sacred kingdom, the traveler experienced, as Vergil describes it, “places of delight, to green park land, Where souls take ease amid the Blessed Groves.”!
The author actually visited this site and describes in intriguing detail features he personally saw that are found in Vergil’s Aeneid, a scene where Aeneas visits the Sibyl of Cuma and asks for directions to the underworld. Vergil’s story turns out to be more fact than fiction. Homer also wrote stories about crossing over to the underworld:
THE VERY NOTION of crossing to the realm of the dead has had a long tradition in the Greek world. The earliest report of such a journey appears in the famous book XI of Homer’s great epic The Odyssey. Odysseus, on his complicated journey back to his home after the battles of Troy, is required by a witch, Circe, to descend into Hades, where Persephone is queen, in order to seek advice from the soul of a famous but dead Theban.
As I read Baigent’s description of what was called “incubation,” it sounded very much like what we know and practice today as meditation or contemplation — or even what today is known as a “sweat lodge.” Only this ritual was performed by priests who knew the techniques and how to administer them. The question I am interested in having answered is whether or not Jesus had a personal experience of incubation during his sojourn in Egypt—perhaps as a preparation for his three-days in the sepulcher between his alleged crucifixion and his celebrated resurrection. Baigent alludes to this possibility but leaves us to our own conclusions and speculations.
THESE MATTERS MAY seem far too arcane to have any relevance whatsoever to our story, which, after all, concerns Jesus and the source of his teachings. Yet Jesus, as we shall soon see, also took an experiential approach to his mysticism. Could men like Parmenides have transmitted ideas to the classical world of the time of Jesus? Could they have added to the fertile mix of techniques that found a center in the great city of Alexandria and a Jewish expression in the Pythagorean-influenced group of Therapeutae whom Philo described living in a community outside the city?
Practice of Dying – Near Death Experiences?
Plato explains through the words of Socrates that those who are involved in following philosophy correctly “‘are practicing nothing other than dying and being dead…truly, then, those who practice philosophy aright are cultivating dying.’” The only difference is that one returns to this world. It sounds very similar to a Near Death Experience.
At the point of death, Themistius informs us, “[the soul] has the same experience as those who are being initiated into great mysteries.”
This definitive assertion can be taken as a true expression of one who had himself been through the great mysteries. This is not just an intellectual belief but something learned from participating in such a journey to the Far-World.
At first one wanders and wearily hurries to and fro, and journeys with suspicion through the dark as one uninitiated: then come all the terrors before the final initiation, shuddering, trembling, sweating, amazement: then one is struck with a marvelous light, one is received into pure regions and meadows, with voices and dances and the majesty of holy sounds and shapes: among these he who has fulfilled initiation wanders free, and released and bearing his crown joins in the divine communion, and consorts with pure and holy men.
In 1958 evidence was uncovered among the ruins of the ancient city of Velia in Italy of healer-priests of Apollo who survived the fall of that city. One of these was the Presocratic philosopher Parmenides. The date 446 A.D. was the latest date inscribed on the stone base of a destroyed statue, indicating a time somewhere around the beginning of the Christian period. Baigent describes their ritual practice:
These healer-priests were important: one of their titles was Pholarchos—“Lord of the Lair.” This is revealing, as these priests were specialists in an initiatory technique once well known in the ancient world as the technique of incubation.
In antiquity the best way of actually making contact with divinities of the underworld was through the practice of “incubation”—of awaiting a dream or vision while sleeping, as a rule, either on or even inside the earth.”
The ritual practice of incubation involves lying down in complete stillness and silence in an underground room, or perhaps a cave, in order to have a prophetic dream or to fall into a state of consciousness that is neither waking nor sleeping. It was here in the enclosed dark spaces that the seekers might have experienced passing across to the Far-world, where they could receive a vision from the Divine, the Source of all. The god of incubation was Apollo.”
. . . . The sacred journey was undertaken for healing or for a revelatory experience. These healer-priests of Apollo were experts in incubation and, as Kingsley explains, “used incantations to enter other states of consciousness.”
We can see here that the practices of ancient Greece, using such sites as found at Baia or the deep caves or underground sites that must have existed in Velia, were not so different from the uses made of the crypts beneath the temples in ancient Egypt. Such dark secluded places were chosen by seekers who, after dutiful preparation and appropriate ritual and incantation, lay in the stillness and entered another state of consciousness. We are left with little alternative but to seriously consider that they did indeed leave their bodies in their Ba form (according to the Egyptians) or in their psyche, or soul (according to the Greeks), and travel to the Far-World.
We can also see that by the time of Jesus the two traditions were drawing ever closer together. In fact, during the Greek and Roman domination of their country, the Egyptians despaired of their secrets surviving; the first-or second-century A.D. Hermetic text the Asclepius laments:
“A time will come when it will appear that the Egyptians paid respect to divinity with faithful mind and painstaking reverence to no purpose. All their holy worship will be disappointed and perish without effect, for divinity will return from earth to heaven, and Egypt will be abandoned…. When foreigners occupy the land … a prohibition under penalty prescribed by law (so-called) will be enacted against reverence, fidelity and divine worship. Then this most holy land, seat of shrines and temples, will be filled completely with tombs and corpses…. Only words cut in stone will survive to tell your faithful works.”
And so did it come to pass: Egypt became a land of darkness and stone-engraved mystery simultaneously with the rise of Christianity. This ended the “First Sacred School” initiated by Abraham and cleared the way for the “Second Sacred School” initiated by Jesus. I will leave it there for now. Until my next posts then,
Be love. Be loved
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