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The “Jesus of Faith” Vs the “Jesus of History” Part 5:4 “Take us down to the river”

“Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river.” –Rumi

I will conclude this series of considerations of the Jesus of faith versus the Jesus of history with Michael Baigent’s own words summarizing the journey we have taken through his provocative book The Jesus Papers — Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History, words and thoughts that I fully embrace as resonant with my own spirit of understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus.

Here are Baigent’s final words from his book:

DURING THE COURSE of writing this book, I have sought out knowledge of a very special context – that of Egypt and Judaea in the first century of the modern era, a period about which there are few facts that we can be certain of. We have seen how the context can be controlled and forced to support a story that simply can’t be true. The Jesus of history cannot have been as the theology of the Jesus of faith presents him.

During the course of our journey, we have discovered that Jesus rejected the political activity of his Zealot supporters. This is a crucially important piece of information that has been missed. We have seen too that there is no evidence that he died on the cross; in fact, what evidence survives suggests otherwise. And if he didn’t die on the cross, where does that leave the resurrection? His divinity? His equal­ity in the Holy Trinity? These claims all disintegrate once the spin stops.

We have discovered that all these assertions about Jesus came much later, the result of a glossy gift-wrapping of some historical events that were deliberately distorted in order to serve a strict theo­logical agenda, one that maintains to the present day a number of ex­tremely odd and eccentric notions. Foremost among these is the belief that only men were Christ’s closest disciples and so women cannot serve as priests, bishops, or popes. With this discovery, the male domination of the apostolic succession crumbles away, along with the Rome-centered concept of the succession itself.

And crucially, we have also discovered that there is no evidence to suggest that Jesus intended to be worshiped as a god. On the con­trary, his teachings indicate that he wanted each person to have the opportunity to travel to the Far-World to find the Divine for himself or herself — or as he put it, to travel to the kingdom of heaven and be filled with the “Spirit of God.”

Where did Jesus learn all this? Not in Galilee, we have concluded, but much more likely in Egypt, where the Jewish community appears to have been more diverse than the Jewish community in Palestine and to have nurtured a more mystical approach to religion.

Furthermore, nothing in our findings suggests that Jesus ever planned to start a religion, let alone encourage others to write down his words and organize them into an official collection of sayings. In fact, quite the reverse is more likely I suspect that he wouldn’t have minded at all if people forgot him; what was more important to him was that people should not forget the way to the kingdom of heaven, a notion not restricted to Christianity and Judaism: “To be ignorant of the divine is the ultimate vice,” proclaim the texts attributed to the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus.

It should be clear now that history is malleable: we have our facts, but we never have enough of them to be able to put our hands on our hearts and say, in all honesty, that we know for certain what hap­pened. All history is a myth, a story created to make some sense out of the few events we can know. The past is a hypothesis erected to ex­plain and justify the present.

In some ways this does not matter, for myths exist to communicate meaning, not history. But in this scientific age we want to know that the myths we live by are, if not true, at least based upon some approximation of the truth. We want to know that Jesus was really crucified, that Caesar was truly murdered by Brutus, that Paul did have a mystical experience on his way to Damascus. All these events are plausible, and there is no intrinsic reason why they might not be true.

But what do we do with beliefs such as Jesus walking on water?  Jesus having been raised from the dead? Peter founding the Roman Church with infallible popes? None of these beliefs is plausible, and there is no intrinsic reason why any of them should be true. Yet there are many who equally believe both sets of assertions.

Our modern world is dominated by the “religions of the book”­ Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. We can see that to base truth upon a written word makes it vulnerable to all the problems of interpreta­tion and translation, to say nothing of religious distortion. The danger is that books foster a dependence upon belief rather than knowledge; if there has been one underlying theme of our journey, it has been that we need to travel the road for ourselves and experience its hardships, pleasures, and insights directly rather than secondhand or vicariously. (Bold emphasis mine)

And with that plea I must bring our journey to an end, not be­cause there is no further to travel, for of course there is, but because we have traveled much already and it is now time to pause and reflect on just how far we have come.

As we halt, it only remains to quote the great Persian Sufi Jelalud­din Rumi, who, cutting straight to the heart of the matter, as was al­ways his way, cried out to all who would listen: “Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river!'”

To drink from the river is our birthright. Let no one deny us that freedom!

There is no argument that the impact upon the entire world of humankind that the presence and ministry of this one man made is nothing short of a profound transformation and elevation of the human spirit and of human consciousness. I know this is true for me personally. Just to think of him and to read his words in my red-letter Bible stirs my soul and quickens my spirit. Jesus is alive today in the heart of humanity as truly as he was alive and physically present on earth two-thousand years ago.

I’ll leave you with this five-minute video clip by Dr. Bruce Lipton on how our beliefs direct our lives 95% of the time and how religious beliefs are programs and not reality. Believing in God is not the same as knowing God. To know God is to go beyond belief and to know your Self. That is the only reality we can know for certain: that I AM.

In my next post I will consider the Aramaic Prayer of Jesus and the direct access to Father and Mother God available to all human beings on Earth. Until then,

Be love. Be loved.

Anthony

Read my HealthLight Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com.  Current post: Humble Honey Kills Bacteria.

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The “Jesus of Faith” Vs the “Jesus of History” part 5:3 – Resurrection

 

Good morning and Happy Easter!

I feel the burgeoning wave of joy and happiness that is resurrected from the womb of human hearts every year at Easter in the wake of the fasting season of Lent and just on the heels of passion Holy Week and sorrowful Good Friday — at least in the Christian sector of the world’s seven-plus billion population. With spring bursting out all over, this is a most appropriate time of the year to celebrate Easter.

(click on the picture to enlarge it)

A study in 2012 estimated Christianity was the largest faith at 2.2 billion adherents or 31.5 percent of the world’s population. The Roman Catholic Church makes up 50 percent of that total, with Protestants — including Anglicans and non-denominational churches — at 37 percent and Orthodox at 12 percent.”  So, nearly a third of the people on earth celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Little wonder the day is so bright, even as bright as the Sun rising in the East. 

Hmm. I must look up the origin of the word “Easter.” And I did. Here is one item that stands out among all of the hoopla over the pagan roots of this annual Christian celebration:

Because the English Anglo/Saxon language originally derived from the Germanic, there are many similarities between German and English. Many English writers have referred to the German language as the “Mother Tongue!” The English word Easter is of German/Saxon origin and not Babylonian as Alexander Hislop falsely claimed. The German equivalent is OsterOster (Ostern being the modern day equivalent) is related to Ostwhich means the rising of the sun, or simply in English, eastOster comes from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen / auferstehung, which means resurrection, which in the older Teutonic form comes from two words, Ester meaning first, and stehen meaning to stand. These two words combine to form erstehen which is an old German form of auferstehen, the modern day German word for resurrection.

It was the Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 who “ordained that Easter shouldn’t be connected with the festival of another faith. It should stand on its own in connection with the natural world. Hence he ordained that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday after the first  new moon of Spring.” (David Potter of Oxford University Press.)  So, Easter Sunday’s final resting place is somewhere between March 21 and April 25. The date of Easter Day is usually the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the March equinox.

An issue was also settled at this council concerning the celebration of the Passover by the Jewish Christians, as Jesus’ crucifixion was said to be associated with the Passover. Obviously, Christianity emerged out of Judaism. Thus the consolidation of the two celebrations by Constantine.

Now the Easter egg can be traced back to practices in pre-dynastic Egypt as well as amid the early Christians of Mesopotamia.  From there it spread into Russia and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches. In Christianity, for the celebration of Easter, the Easter egg symbolizes the empty tomb of Jesus. An ancient tradition was the staining of the Easter egg with the color red in memory of the blood of Christ shed during his crucifixion. The egg is also a symbol of fertility.

Significance of the Resurrection

I will now return to my consideration of the Foreword of Stevan Davies’ book The Gospel of Thomas – Annotated & Explained, written by the his Series Editor Andrew Harvey. I will continue from where I left off in my post of April 7th on the theme of “Kingdom-consciousness.”

If all the Gospel of Thomas did was relentlessly and sublimely cham­pion the path to our transfiguration and point out its necessity, it would be one of the most important of all religious writings — but it does even more. In saying 22, the Gospel of Thomas gives us a brilliantly concise and pre­cise “map” of the various stages of transformation that have to be unfolded in the seeker for the “secret” to be real in her being and active though all her powers. Like saying 13, saying 22 has no precedent in the synoptic gospels and is, I believe, the single most important document of the spiritual life that Jesus has left us.

Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples: These infants taking milk are like those who enter the Kingdom. His disciples asked him: If we are infants will we enter the Kingdom? Jesus responded: When you make the two into one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the upper like the lower and the lower like the upper, and thus make the male and the female the same, so that the male isn’t male and the female isn’t female. When you make an eye to replace an eye, and a hand to replace a hand, and a foot to replace a foot, and an image to replace an image, then you will enter the Kingdom.

When Jesus says in saying 19 “If you become my disciples and listen to me, these stones will serve you,” in saying 24 “There is light within a man of light, and he lights up all of the world,” and in saying 106 “When you make the two into one, you will be called sons of men. When you say ‘Move, mountain!’ it will move,” he was not speaking in incandescent poetry; he was describing the actual powers that God gives those who risk becoming divinized, powers that can alter natural law and “burn down the house” of the oppressive power structures of the world.

Fourth and finally, we see in saying 22 the final cryptic sentences of the saying: “When you make an eye to replace an eye, and a hand to replace a hand, and a foot to replace a foot, and an image to replace an image, then you will enter the Kingdom.” What these lines describe is nothing less than the physical transformation that mystical union makes possible, the bringing up of ordinary matter into the living truth of the Light.

The ultimate sign of the Christ is the victory of the Resurrection, which is the marriage of matter and spirit to create a wholly new and eternal substance. Those mystics who follow Christ into union come to know and taste the glory of the Resurrected Body in their own bodies. The pow­ers available to the human being willing to undertake the full rigor of the Jesus-transformation are limitless. What could not be done to trans­form this world by a group of seekers who allowed their whole beings­–psychological, spiritual, and physical–to become increasingly transfigured by the living light?

The greatest of all modern philosophers–Sri Aurobindo — saw that only an “integral” transformation could provide the force and inspiration to change that must occur if humanity is to survive and evolve. Jesus in saying 22 has anticipated Sri Aurobindo’s vision and provided the map to its realization.

There may be very little time left to take the adventure into total being that the Gospel of Thomas advocates with such astringent brilliance and pre­cision. In such a terrible age as ours, it is easy to believe that the dark powers, the powers of that corpse of the world that the Jesus of Thomas so fiercely denounces, have won already, and there is nothing even the most passionate of us can do to turn around a humanity addicted to violence and destruction.

Despair, however, is the last illusion. The Gospel of Thomas and the Jesus who gave it to us continue to challenge us to dare to become one with the Divine and start living the revolutionary life that streams from union and that can transform all things. This worst of times needs the clearest and most unflinchingly exigent of visions to counteract and trans­form it; in Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Thomas and in his living out of their reality through and beyond death itself into the eternal empowering glory of the Resurrection, we have the permanent sign of the Way, the Truth, and the all-transforming Life that, even now, can build here on earth the reality of God’s Kingdom.

As this series  The “Jesus of Faith” Vs the “Jesus of History” winds down, I will return to my desk to write, edit and publish my final post of the series. Until then, I wish you each one a Happy Easter and offer my thanks to you for sharing these considerations with me over the past several weeks.  Until my next post, then,

Be love. Be loved.

Anthony

Photo credit: Craig Burrows “The Invisible Light that Flowers Emit”   Click on the link to see more of Craig’s flowers.

The “Jesus of History” vs the “Jesus of Faith” part 3:3 – The Book of Enoch

Enoch was a name given to an ancient Jewish text that was written, according to religious historian Michael Baigent, by several authors. It stands as a testament to prior mystical traditions influencing Judaism, although many Jewish rabbis would not accept it. Early Christians in Ethiopia, on the other hand, accepted it as part of the Old Testament, especially the parts that tell of the coming of Jesus and a reference to it in the New Testament in a Letter of Jude (14). Ultimately, the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 sidelined the Book of Enoch and it was eventually banned by late-fourth and early-fifth-century theologians such as Jerome and Augustine.

According to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, Enoch was the seventh generation of Adam and Eve and the father of Methuselah, who lived 969 years and was the grandfather of Noah. In those days it was common to live several hundred years. Enoch didn’t hang around quit as long. As the story goes, “And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:23-24). The story of Enoch, of course, is a travelogue of his visit to heaven–which greatly influenced the writers of the New Testament and contributed to much of the dogma of Christianity and especially Catholicism.

Michael Baigent gives a brief summary of Enoch’s visit to heaven in his book The Jesus Papers–Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History:

[The Book of Enoch] uses many of the motifs that are now familiar to us: Enoch has a visionary dream (13:8); he asks for an explanation of the Tree of Life (25:1-3); he mentions three eastern portals through which stars pass on the eastern horizon (36:3), in accordance with the Babylonian and Assyrian astrolabes, which date from around 1100 B.C.; and he also speaks of the actions of men as being weighed in the balance, like the Egyptian concept of afterlife judgment (41:1).

We are once again on familiar ground: we have esoteric matters taught to a seeker by means of dream visions of the Far-World—and in a Jewish context. As we have seen, these dream visions occur as part of an initiation, and the dreamer goes to a quiet, dark place, such as a cave or a temple crypt, and uses the techniques he or she has been taught to enter the stillness from which the Far-World is accessible. So we would expect, somewhere in the Book of Enoch, to find a reference to the experiential, the initiatory. We are not disappointed. (underscores mine)

“And it came to pass,” the text explains,”‘that my spirit was translated and it ascended into the heavens: and I saw the holy sons of God” (Enoch 71: 1). This report has all the appearance of being an account of something that truly occurred to the writer—a mystical experience that could be induced by someone seeking initiation into the esoteric tradition of Judaism.

Enoch was taken up “from amongst those who dwell on the earth … he was raised aloft on the chariots of the spirit” (Enoch 70:2).  This image seems to be a Judaic equivalent of the Egyptian winged Ba. But there is no doubt that this event concerned an initiation, since the text explains what happened to Enoch after he had been raised to heaven but before his spirit became transfigured:

“And the angel Michael seized me by my right hand, and lifted me up and led me forth into all the secrets, and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness. And he showed me all the secrets of the ends of the heaven.” (Enoch 71:3 – 4)

The anonymous ancient writer continues, describing what then occurred: “And I fell on my face,” he recounts, “and my whole body became relaxed, and my spirit was transfigured” (71:11).

This is precisely the type of experience that we would expect to find among the Therapeutae, for example. And crucially, just in case we have failed to spot it, the text makes a point of explaining that this ascent into the heavens occurred while Enoch was still living – as the text puts it, “during his lifetime.” This is virtually identical to the explanation in the Egyptian Pyramid Texts that the king has “not departed dead” but has “departed alive.” It is hard not to see the two statements as describing an essentially similar experience, an experience deriving from an initiation into the mysteries of the Far-World.

These visionary texts cannot be any other than records of initiations—records gathered together under the name of Enoch in much the same way as in Egypt those attributed to Hermes Trismegistus were collected together in the Books of Hermes.

I don’t agree with the author’s conclusion that Enoch’s visit to heaven was an “initiation into the mysteries of the Far-World.” We’re talking about several thousands of years before the Egyptian Mystery Schools even existed. I rather attribute Enoch’s visit to the realms of light to the fact that heaven was still accessible by virtue of the yet uncluttered veil between heaven and earth in human consciousness and to certain vibrational factors that were still in place at the time that made visits Home possible. It rather seems more likely that this ancient story played an inspirational and intriguing role in the Egyptian’s efforts to visit the Far-World themselves, just as Enoch reportedly had done. Again, looking back to ancient times and events and attempting to understand and interpret them using a much evolved (or devolved) state of consciousness and set of values, is presumptuous at best and misdirecting at worst.

Given the visionary nature of this text, it is, at first sight, curious to discover that seven pieces of the Book of Enoch form part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. All were found in 1952 in the Qumran cave in the marl cliff face near the ruins of the community, now called Cave 4. So, on the face of it, it seems as though the Zealot group that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls and was so important a part of Jesus’s political milieu and the messianic Jewish group that gave rise to Christianity were both well aware of the Book of Enoch. But an analysis of it reveals an interesting fact.

The Book of Enoch, as we have said, is a compilation of texts from different authors. In fact, scholars have separated the text into five sections, each distinctive and different from the others. The section that contains the report of the mystical ascent and transfiguration is the second section, which is also known as “the Parables.” This mystical, initiatory section is completely absent from the texts found at Qumran.

The Dead Sea Scroll texts contain fragments, written in Aramaic, from sections one, four, and five only of the Book of Enoch. Not only is the mystical section missing, but so too is the following section on astronomical and calendar matters — in particular, the section providing the basis of the solar calendar, which, we will remember, was evidently used in the Jewish Temple of Onias in the Egyptian delta.

We can see here the same clash of traditions that we find expressed in the story of Jesus when he rejects the Zealot position on the payment of taxes to the emperor. Jesus took a mystical approach; the Zealots took a worldly approach. The Zealot Book of Enoch clearly rejects this mystical approach. This stands in further evidence that — as we have said before — Jesus could not have learned his skills among the Zealots of Galilee.

Mystical texts like the Book of Enoch, texts that would have been very dear to the Therapeutae, would also have been very dear to those who taught Jesus. With the Book of Enoch, we finally have a text that appears to issue directly from the Jewish milieu within which Jesus was nurtured and from a group concerned with initiation into secret teachings, with an ascent to heaven, and with an experience of the Divine Light. Of this there can be no doubt, for according to the Book of Enoch (96:3), “A bright light shall enlighten you.”

All of this, of course, is supposition and speculation on the part of Michael Baigent, admittedly so.  Joseph B. Lumpkin, author of The Books of Enoch published in 2009, shares some interesting insight into this ancient story and the book itself:

Of all the books quoted, paraphrased, or referred to in the Bible, the Book of Enoch has influenced the writers of the Bible as few others have. Even more extensively than in the Old Testament, the writers of the New Testament were frequently influenced by other writings, including the Book of Enoch. However, things are never easy when such a span of time is involved. Over the elapsed two-thousand years, three major works attributed to Enoch have been discovered. . . .

. . . However, recent discoveries of copies of the book among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran prove the book was in existence long before the time of Jesus Christ. These scrolls force a closer look and reconsideration. It becomes obvious that the New Testament did not influence the Book of Enoch; on the contrary, the Book of Enoch influenced the New Testament. The date of the original writing upon which the second century B.C. Qumran copies were based is shrouded in obscurity. Likewise lost are the sources of the oral traditions that came to be the Book of Enoch.

It has been largely the opinion of historians that the book does not really contain the authentic words of the ancient Enoch, since he would have lived several thousand years earlier than the first known appearance of the book attributed to him. However, the first century Christians accepted the Book of Enoch as inspired, if not authentic. They relied on it to understand the origin and purpose of many things, from angels to wind, sun, and stars. In fact, many of the key concepts used by Jesus Christ himself seem directly connected to terms and ideas in the Book of Enoch.

It is hard to avoid the evidence that Jesus not only studied the book, but also respected it highly enough to allude to its doctrine and content. Enoch is replete with mentions of the coming kingdom and other holy themes. It was not only Jesus who quoted phrases or ideas from Enoch, there are over one hundred comments in the New Testament which find precedence in the Book of Enoch.

Other evidence of the early Christians’ acceptance of the Book of Enoch was for many years buried under the King James Bible’s mistranslation of Luke 9:35, describing the transfiguration of Christ: “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear him.'” Apparently the translator here wished to make this verse agree with a similar verse in Matthew and Mark. But Luke’s verse in the original Greek reads: “This is my Son, the Elect One (from the Greek ho eklelegmenos, lit., “the elect one”). Hear him.” The “Elect One” is a most significant term (found fourteen times) in the Book of Enoch. If the book was indeed known to the apostles of Christ, with its abundant descriptions of the Elect One who should “sit upon the throne of glory” and the Elect One who should “dwell in the midst of them;” then the great scriptural authenticity is justly accorded to the Book of Enoch when the “voice out of the cloud” tells the apostles, “This is my Son, the Elect One,”… the one promised in the Book of Enoch. . . .

. . . . The Books of Enoch, and especially 1 Enoch, seems to be a missing link between Jewish and Christian theology and is considered by many to be more Christian in its theology than Jewish. It was considered scripture by many early Christians. The literature of the church fathers is filled with references to this book. The early second century apocryphal book of the Epistle of Barnabus makes many references and quotes from the Book of Enoch. Second and third century church fathers like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin and Clement of Alexandria all seemed to have accepted Enoch as authentic. Tertullian (160-230 A.D.) even called the Book of Enoch, “Holy Scripture”. The Ethiopian Coptic Church holds the Book of Enoch as part of its official spiritual canon. It was widely known and read the first three centuries after Christ. This and many other books became discredited after the Council of Laodicea. And being under ban of the authorities, it gradually disappeared from circulation.

In 1773, rumors of a surviving copy of the book drew Scottish explorer James Bruce to distant Ethiopia. He found the Book of Enoch had been preserved by the Ethiopian church, which put it right alongside the other books of the Bible.

What emphasizes itself to me in all of this is the longing in the human heart to return Home to an Edenic heaven we somehow lost sight and experience of, and the human mind’s futile endeavors to devise ways of exploring higher levels of consciousness, as exemplified, for example, in the mind-altering drug culture. We rather believe that heaven is “up there” somewhere in the heavens, whereas Jesus clearly stated that the kingdom of heaven is within us and all around us–and that will be the topic of my next post in this series. Until then,

Be love. Be loved.

Antony

I invite you to read my HealthLight Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com.

The “Jesus of History” Vs the “Jesus of Faith” part 3:2 – Experiencing the Source

“Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river.”—Rumi

Christianity, as it was conceived and brought forth as a religion–initially by the Jewish Zealots at the time of Jesus and three decades later by Constantine and the Council of Nicaea–interrupted a cycle of restoration that Jesus initiated with his life of unconditional love and compassion. In that sense, it was and is a failure. The kingdom of heaven remains only a belief, a concept in human consciousness, a place to go to after we die, but nevertheless a largely unrevealed reality behind the manifest world of human existence. I say “largely” because the Natural World continues to manifest the glorious revelation of the kingdom of heaven on Earth, especially in the spring. In a word, what we long for and seek is to go beyond belief and into a personal experience of God. This the Christian religion has failed to deliver. We’ve had to find it on our own by way of various transformational spiritual paths.

It also interrupted a much larger cycle of spiritual evolution that began with Abraham, the great patriarch of Judaism, and the children of Abraham, the nation of Israel. It ended with the collapse of Egypt as the world center of religion, mysticism and esoteric knowledge.

Actually, the cycle initiated with Abraham ended with the fall of King Solomon’s reign and empire. He had gathered and united many empires under one by taking their princesses and queens as wives, of which he simply had more than he could placate and still maintain stewardship of the cycle he was bringing to a potentially victorious climax and completion. His was a classic example, yet again, of the Man being distracted by  the Woman to the abandonment of his purpose in the divine scheme of restoration, a repetition of the same pattern of failure enacted by the parents of the human race in the Garden of Eden–a pattern that continues to be enacted between the men and women to this day. But not all was lost.

I ended the last post on a transitional note marking the end of the Egyptian era and the beginning of the Christian era. In this post, I will take a look at this transitional period and see how something great and significant did come out of Egypt besides Jesus, the Messiah. I will continue sharing religious historian Michael Baigent’s thought-provoking perspectives from his extensively researched book The Jesus Papers—Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History.

The Hermetic Texts

The Egyptian priests sought to preserve their secrets by learning the Greek language in which they wrote an entire collection of wisdom texts that circulated under the name Hermes, but for which they drew their essentials from Egyptian tradition. This collection of literature was attributed to the ancient Egyptian god Thoth, aka “Hermes Trismegistus” in the late classical world. Baigent raps up this chapter with this insightful overview of the Hermetic roots of Western civilization and of the pagan roots of Christianity:

Above all, and of most relevance to our investigation, the Hermetic concept of man is “as a cosmic rather than a terrestrial being.'” The Greek gold plate (see the previous post) put it well: “My race is of Heaven [alone].”

A particular value of this Hermetic literature is that, despite its late production, it comes from the very source of the mysteries of the ancients and so can be used as a lens through which to view the earlier texts, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of their true concerns.” Significantly, at the very heart of the Hermetic texts is the concept of mystical initiation: “Then he [Poimandres] sent me forth, empowered and instructed on the nature of the universe and on the supreme vision.”

It is still more curious that the production of these books of Hermes began about the time of Jesus and paralleled the rise of Christianity. At the end of the second century A.D., Clement, the Christian bishop of Alexandria, referred to them as “containing the whole philosophy of the Egyptians.” The pagan philosopher Iamblichus, writing a little later, was also aware of their importance: “Our ancestors dedicated the inventions of their wisdom to this deity, inscribing all their own writings with the name of Hermes.'”

This collection of texts . . . has had an enormous and incalculable effect upon the Western mind. It is fair to say that the Western world would not have developed as it did without them. Science itself might never have evolved without the impetus given by men and women enamored of these works. For they were rediscovered in the Renaissance and translated by Marsilio Ficino about 1463 at the behest of the wealthy Florentine banker Cosimo de Medici.

(For a review of the Hermetic Principles that have come down us—such as the principle of cause and effect—and the most often quoted: “As above so below; as below so above”—visit this website: http://thirdmonk.net/knowledge/seven-great-hermetic-principles-teachings-thoth.html#)

Going Home NOW

We all want to return Home—some of us, myself included, would like to be able to do so now while we breathe the air of this world. Our prodigal sojourn on Earth has left us hungering and thirsting for Home—for eternal life. And we will go Home, even if we have to die to get there. This belief that one has to die in order to go to heaven is central to Christian doctrine. The only trouble is Heaven is not “there.” It is here, waiting to be revealed where we are, here on planet Earth—where we’ve rather made a hell of a mess. For this reason alone, going Home has been an escape, or at least a reprieve, from our miserable plight.

Herein lies part of the deception hidden within the “Greatest Cover-Up in History” Michael Baigent has boldly brought to the fore for our critical examination and honest review. The truth has been adulterated with fabricated lies and what has been handed down as “truth” has been horded and sold to the faithful by a false priesthood. Baigent speaks to this here:

No one individual, no culture, no civilization, has a monopoly on truth. For this reason, we should not make the mistake of thinking that the techniques of entering the Far-World were known only to the Egyptians or the Greeks. The gates to the Far-World have always been open to those whose world-weary longing draws them across the divide.

And there were few more world-weary than those who came to be baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, a unique event that even Catholic editors of the Jerusalem bible consider to be an initiation. Was this perhaps the true meaning of John’s statement, “The kingdom of heaven is close at hand?” (Matthew 3:2)

Jacob’s Ladder

This doorway to heaven has been sought after throughout the history of mankind. Bagent cites the story of Jacob’s ladder in the Old Testament as an example. If you recall the story, Jacob had a dream of a great ladder connecting heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending on it.  Upon awakening from his dream, he realizes that he is in a sacred place and, externalizing his dream, he exclaims: “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” He then proceeded to build an altar with stone and he called the place “Bethel” which means “the house of God.” (Genesis 28: 10-19)  What he didn’t realize was that the ladder and “gate of heaven” were not out there but within himself, as was the dream.

Now, the context of this story as Baigent tells it has to do with “sacred sites.” There are places on the surface of the Earth that are known even today as being “sacred” by reason of their vibrational frequency and their historical significance to ancient civilizations, such as Stone Hinge and Easter Island, to name just two of many such places on Earth where the veil between heaven and earth seems to be very thin. Jacob may have well been in one such high place. This veil, of course, is within the individuals who make pilgrimages to these sacred sites. The energy of such places is such that it impacts the individuals’ electromagnetic biosphere raising their vibratory frequency to a height where they experience an intensification of energy. The “house of God” is none other than the body temple itself.  I know this is true from personal experience in such a sacred place where the energetic field was rare and uplifting. For me, it was a direct experience of God—of my own divine Self.

In this sense, Baigent is astute in saying “there are places where the Far-World and the terrestrial world are linked—places that serve as the perfect conduit between the two worlds.”

I resonate with his interpretation of Jacob’s dream:

More significantly, Jacob’s “dream” is better understood as a vision, and one that teaches us a number of important things. Perhaps the most crucial lesion lies in the report of angels “ascending and descending.” This is clearly a symbolic demonstration that the link between heaven and earth is dynamic, that the divine qualities are constantly flowing to and fro (underscore mine). This expresses the idea we have already seen in Egypt that the Far-World and the terrestrial world are intimately—and dynamically—interlinked. This is proof, should we need it, that Jacob’s vision emerged from a living tradition of which this Old Testament report is just a fragment, a glimpse of the lush landscape of the promised land.

The Way was Blocked

Throughout the Old Testament, Baigent suggests, the link between the two worlds is portrayed as being broken, making the passage to and fro difficult if not impossible.

“. . . angelic beings with flaming swords block the entrance to the Garden of Eden; Jacob is not encouraged to climb the ladder to heaven. Religious administrators had apparently taken over the tradition and restricted its message about the pathway to the Far-World—much as Vatican strongmen did later with regard to the teachings of Jesus.

More accurately, the angels with flaming swords, according to the story, only blocked access to the Tree of Life. We must remember that this is a metaphorical story told and written down by Moses. We have no written record of what actually happened. The point the author is making, I believe, is that the way to the kingdom of heaven has been obstructed and access barred to the uninitiated.

There’s an event in the Gospel of Matthew (23:13) where Jesus rebukes the false priesthood of the Temple: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

But how did they “shut up the kingdom of heaven?” And what was their understanding of the nature of the kingdom of heaven? Was it the Far-World of Egyptian/Judaic mysticism? And what “kingdom of heaven” was Jesus referring to?

Baptism, a Pagan Ritual

This concept of the intimate relationship between heaven and earth along with the crossing over to the Far-World was huge in Egyptian tradition, which left its mystical mark on Judaism. A second influence came from Babylon during the Babylonian exile, when King of Babylon, Nebchadnezzar, “seized and captured Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and deported the Jewish king, along with thousands of people. Many others fled into exile in Egypt.”

We can see, for example, the Babylonian rite of baptism as the origin of the Jewish practice of purification before rituals, the aim being to separate the person from the terrestrial world while at the same time establishing a pure relationship with the divine world.

This pagan rite is enacted in the Christian culture as a sacrament, only for a different and fabricated purpose: to wash away the stigma of “original sin,” a sin that was allegedly committed by Adam and Eve, both of whom are fictitious characters created by the author of the Book of Genesis to represent our first parents. This is all part of the hidden agenda Baigent is seeking to expose. There was no actual “original sin” committed by Adam and Eve. It was a story, an allegory, brought forward by Christianity as a means of bringing the faithful into submission to the Church’s rules and requirements for admission to the kingdom of heaven after they die. The reality is we are born into this world not with original sin on our souls but, to borrow a phrase from Catholic prelate and author Matthew Fox, with “original innocence.”

We all worship One God

The Jewish calendar also derives from a system used by the later Babylonians. Even the traditional incantation bowls used by Jewish rabbis were of Babylonian origin. The Babylonian Talmud too has medical information from earlier Babylonian lore, and Babylonian astrological texts have been found to have been used by Jewish groups as well. Even the belief in one god, which carried over into Christianity and Islam, has been seen by some scholars as deriving from ancient Mesopotamia: the name of the god of the Assyrians, Ashur (Assur), means the “One,” the “Only,” the “Universal God.”

It appears, then, that Islam and Christianity worship the same One God.

Mesopotamian influence can also be detected in the origin of the Tree of Life, now the backbone of the mystical Jewish practice known as the Kabbalah. The notorious “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” in the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament also has its roots in the very early oral mythological teachings of humans well before the invention of writing.  The story of Ezekiel also comes out of Babylon and suggests that Ezekiel may have been involved with the esoteric mysteries of Egypt as an initiate himself. So, much of our Judeo-Christian heritage comes from pagan religions.

I will leave it there for now. In my next post I will give in depth consideration of the Book of Enoch. Until then,

Be love. Be loved

Anthony

I invite you to read my Health Light Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com.

 

 

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.

Incubation

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?

Out of body experience

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.

Themistius continues:

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.

The Healer-Priests

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

Anthony

Read my Health Light Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com

 

 

The “Jesus of History” Vs the “Jesus of Faith” part 2: The Missing Years pg 2

My Chorale Pic

“WHAT IF EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT JESUS IS WRONG?” – From the cover of Michael Baigent’s book THE JESUS PAPERS – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History.  Michael Baigent is a religious historian and leading expert in the field of arcane knowledge.

Jesus and Egyptian Mysticism

The Egyptian Mystery Schools were not about cloaking the truth of God in mystery so as to hide it from the uninitiated layman, as a reader recently alluded to in a comment on my last post. Or was it? There does seem to have been a certain secrecy about the “initiation” process which introduced one to Egyptian mysticism.

Now, there’s a word that could use some cleaning up. Mysticism need not imply a cloaking of truth in the illusory clouds of mystery. On the contrary, mysticism dates back to ancient times as a doctrine or belief that one can obtain communion with God, have a direct experience of the Divine Source of Life itself, through contemplation and meditation – “and love without the medium of human reason,” the New World Dictionary adds in its first definition of the word. It’s only the third option that defines mysticism as “vague, obscure, or confused thinking or belief.” The second option defines mysticism as “any doctrine that asserts the possibility of attaining knowledge of spiritual truths through intuition acquired by fixed meditation.” A mystic is a person who has found a spiritual path that takes him/her directly into the Light of the Divine Presence.  This is what Egyptian Mysticism was reportedly all about. So, why would Jesus not be interested in exploring Egyptian mysticism?

According to Michael Baigent, Jesus was more a mystic than a messiah — in the sense that he opened a pathway to the “Kingdom of Heaven” that is within us and all around us for everyone.  He knew the Way.  According to the Gospels, he reportedly said “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Where did he learn the “way” to the spirit world of heaven? Had he mastered Egyptian mysticism?

The “Master”

An essential aspect of the Master’s miraculous healings – and I call Jesus Master with purpose – was in the way he reached out to touch people where they were, not requiring them in any way whatsoever to rise up to where he was in order for him to heal them. These people had been led by the God of Abraham and of Isaac to their City of Habitation in Jerusalem. The Prophets of the Old Testament had foretold that a messiah would come and restore Israel and deliver its people from the bondage of the powers that were at the time, which was the Roman Empire. Jesus knew that and he respected their belief in a messiah – so much so that he took on the role of that messiah in order to touch them where they were in their state of expectancy. He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, as we saw earlier, in order to fulfill the prophecy and satisfy their expectancy, an event Catholics celebrate even to this day on Palm Sunday. Where did he learn his mastery?

According to Michael Baigent, Jesus was taken by his parents to Egypt where he grew up and spent eighteen years studying Jewish law and the Sacred Scriptures in preparation for his public ministry among the Jews in Galilee and Judea. I resonate with his scenario for the simple reason that it would seem necessary that Jesus fully understand the task he was about to take on with a people steeped in tradition and scriptural beliefs. But beyond his education into the beliefs and traditions of the Jewish people, I see no heresy in allowing that Jesus may have explored the mysticism of the Egyptian people. After all, he came to minister to the entire world and not just to the Jewish people. His deep passion was to lead all souls back to the path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven – which he said on many occasions, according to the record, is “within.” To enter the kingdom of heaven, one has to turn around, the literal meaning of “repent,” and look within oneself to find the “way” in.

The Egyptian mystics had found a doorway to that kingdom, only they called it the “Far World.” And here is where Baigent treads on sacred beliefs. Dare he, dare I, even consider the possibility that Jesus explored and underwent training in the mysticism of the Mystery Schools of Egypt? Yes, Egypt was a “‘land-of-darkness’ – or the state-of-darkened consciousness, gross darkness,” as a reader characterized Egypt in his comment on my last post. However, there was a light shining in the gross darkness of Egypt in a community of holy men and women.

The Therapeutae

I would like to turn now and consider a contemplative community of healers with whom Jesus may well have lived and studied. Baigent writes about them in his book. I will share the entire story with you mostly in the author’s own words, words that drew me out with a deep sense of deja vu.

On a low hill in southern Egypt, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Maryut just southwest of Alexandria, lived a small community of Jewish philosophers.  Being situated between two bodies of water, they benefited from the fresh breeze of cool and healthy sea air that swept over the limestone spur.  In an atmosphere of peace and “relative security” in this rural setting with nearby  villas and towns, they lived a contemplative lifestyle. As Baigent describes it best, I will let him tell the story, which is largely based on accounts written by Philo of Alexandria and a couple of other historians.

This community was given the name of Therapeutae, which, as Philo explains, carries both the sense of healing – not only of the body but also of the soul – and a sense of worship. Therapeutae worship centered on the “Self-Existent” – a belief in the One Divine Reality, never created but eternal. This was a concept of divinity far beyond the capability of language to describe.

In one important way, the Therapeutae were very different from the other dedicated groups Philo describes, such as the Essenes. Among the Therapeutae, women were admitted as equal members and participated fully in the spiritual life of the community. By contrast, the Essenes, according to Philo, Josephus, and Pliny, were proud of the fact that they excluded women; women, they believed, were a distraction. We should recall here the inclusive attitude of Jesus toward the women in his entourage and the criticism that this engendered among some of his male disciples in the Gospels, for there have been many questionable attempts to ally Jesus with the Essenes.

Comprised of upper well-educated upper class elite from Alexandria who had divested themselves of all worldly possessions, the Therapeutae’s communal life was one of simplicity – and they were not the only group in all of Egypt that followed a contemplative lifestyle.  They were, however, the only group representing a “Jewish version of a widespread mystical tradition that found expression in all lands.” Baigent gives another distinguishing characteristic of this group.

The implication of the Therapeutae’s inclusion of women, however, is that when a group is dedicated to the contemplation of the highest experience of the soul – to that sight of the soul “which alone gives a knowledge of truth and falsehood” – the gender of the worshiper is irrelevant. This may seem self-evident to us today, but in the world of Philo and Jesus this concept was truly revolutionary.

The Therapeutae were mystics and visionaries: “It is well,” Philo writes, “that the Therapeutae, a people always taught from the first to use their sight, should desire the vision of the Existent and soar above the sun of our senses.”

Members of the Therapeutae wanted to have a direct vision of reality – or of the “Self- Existent,” to use Philo’s term – in order to experience what truly exists behind the rough-and-tumble world of this transitory life. This too was the aim of many groups operating in the classical world, especially in those great and secret cults called “the Mysteries.” Here we appear to have a Jewish version, seeking the same end, but operating in a much simpler manner within the Jewish tradition.

The Therapeutae prayed at dawn and sunset. During the day they would read the holy texts, but rather than taking these as the history of the Jewish nation, they understood them as allegory. According to Philo, they considered the literal text a symbol of something hidden that they could find only if they looked for it.

Every seven days they would gather together and hear a talk by one of the senior members; every fifty days they would have a major assembly where they would all put on white robes, eat a simple sacred meal, and form a choir, men and women together, to sing hymns with complex rhythms and vocal parts. This festival would continue all night until dawn, revealing the solar nature of their worship: “They stand with their faces and whole body turned to the east and when they see the sun rising they stretch their hands up to heaven and pray for bright days and knowledge of the truth.’?”

Clearly this is a very different type of Judaism, one that does not depend upon temple worship at all. In Therapeutae worship, which has a very Pythagorean tinge, there is no concern with the cult of Judaism, which was so important to the priests in the temples of Jerusalem and the Egyptian delta, or with the purity of the high priests serving that cult, which was of such concern to the Zealots, or with the coming of the Messiah of the Line of David. For both male and female members of the Therapeutae, there was simply the possibility of a visionary experience of Divinity.

Their kingdom was truly not of this world: Jesus would have approved.

There is one further implication of the Therapeutae’s beliefs that warrants more discussion, and that is the practice of treating the entire Old Testament as symbolic. They would have read all the messianic predictions made by the prophets symbolically.  There would have been no reason in their minds for an actual messiah to come to liberate Israel; there would have been no reason for Jesus to be the actual king and high priest; the oracular pronouncements of the messiah would have been simply symbolic of something deeper and more mysterious. We have seen before how the “Star” is a symbol of the messiah, but can we now take this concept a little further? Can we see the statement by Peter in the New Testament as reflecting this kind of speculation, albeit in a Christian context? Could the phrase “Let the Day Star rise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19) be interpreted as an encouragement to let the mystic light rise from within?

With such attitudes apparently widespread, perhaps even common, it is no wonder that Judaism in Egypt, and Christianity afterwards, had a distinctively mystical quality: it was in Egypt that Christian monasticism first began; it was in Egypt at Nag Hammadi that someone hid the Gnostic texts, that collection of Christian and classical mystical texts – including one by Plato and one from the texts of Hermes Trismegistus, the Asclepius – that had been compiled and used by a desert monastery.

The Christian Church in Egypt had mystically minded figures even as late as the third century – theologians Clement of Alexandria and Origen, for example. We have Egyptian traditions leaking into Judaism from very early days – the times of Joseph and Moses – and in more recent times, as we see in the writings of Philo. In the midst of all this we have groups such as the Therapeutae working a mystical type of Judaism and the Temple of Onias maintaining the true Jewish Zadokite priesthood.

At this point one is tempted to ask “What was it about Egypt that gave this mystical focus to Judaism and the Christianity born out of it? What kind of soil were these foreign faiths growing in?”

The irony of these questions is that it was not so much the land that nourished these faiths as it was the sun, which poured out its life-giving sustenance from above. A clue lies in the fact that both the Therapeutae and the Jewish Zadokites adopted the solar calendar from the Egyptians, whose major deity, Ra, was in fact an expression of the sun as the source of life, the source of all creation. Texts reveal that the pharaoh, at least, sought mystical union with Ra as the “deepest fulfillment of our human divine nature.”

I find this to be a curiously significant aspect of Egyptian Mysticism, as the sun is the central focus of cosmic energy for our solar system – which I would rather call a “Solar Entity” to emphasize its living and breathing nature.  As we shall see in the next post, the Egyptians viewed the visible material world as the cloak of an invisible spiritual “Far World” which governed the world of form.  Their gods lived in that spiritual world.

Could it be that their worship of the sun was prompted by a latent subconscious memory of their origin in the sun. Yes, the sun, the Star at the center of our world.  Is our Judeo-Christian “Heaven” perhaps located in the cool center of our Star?  It that where God lives as the “Lord of lords” and “King of kings,” in his Kingdom that “is not of this world?”  Is the Sun the radiant outer garment of the LORD GOD Creator of our universe – the fire that burns and the light that glows – that gives evidence of the Presence of the One that dwells within – the” Shekinah”? A possibility upon which to meditate and ponder.

The profound mysticism that lay at the very heart of the Egyptian experience of reality clearly influenced many of the other faiths that had established themselves there. This Egyptian mysticism, which employed secret readings of myth and private rituals, often played out in secluded underground chambers and temples, professed to connect this world with the next, to connect heaven and earth.

The approach of the Egyptians was not a kind of philosophy, a speculation on divine possibilities, or a faith built solely upon the hope for a better life after death. The Egyptians were not only mystical but intensely practical. They did not want to talk about heaven, they wanted to go there. And return. Just like Lazarus in fact.

It’s time now to look at the hidden mysteries of Egypt.

Until my next post, when I will tell you about the mysteries of Egypt as Michael Baigent describes them.

Be love. Be loved.

Anthony Palombo

 

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If you are interested in healing oils, I recommend these folks: https://www.ancienthealingoil.co.za/about

 

The “Jesus of History” . . . . Vs The “Jesus of Faith” . . . . Part 2: The “Missing years”

My Chorale Pic

Eighteen years of Jesus’ life are not accounted for in the four Canonical Gospels. The last we hear of his early childhood is the alleged story about him debating with the chief priests and elders in the Temple of Jerusalem at the age of twelve. Where he went after that is a question that has given rise to much scholarly speculation.

Religious historian Michael Baigent has a very intriguing chapter on the missing years of Jesus’ life in his book The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. Digging deeply and tenaciously into whatever ancient texts and oral traditions he could find—the most resourceful being those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, written by the Jewish Zadokites and Zealots in Egypt, where they were found around 1947-56, and the Nag Hammadi texts discovered south of Cairo in Egypt in 1945—Baigent places Jesus in Egypt where he receives his messianic training in the Egyptian Mystery Schools.

It is in Egypt, Baigent suggests, where Jesus received training in the ancient rituals of Egyptian mysticism that opened heaven’s gate for passage into the Underworld—the “land of the dead,” which was thought more to be the “land of the living”—and re-entry into the physical plane.  Bagent suggests that Jesus was initiated into these mysteries whereby, with the assistance of fellow initiates who attended to the physical body during the soul’s out-of-body journey, one could die to this world, visit the realm of the gods and obtain wisdom, then be resurrected from the “dead.” Not entirely without historical support for his scenario, Baigent’s speculation is quite conceivable and compelling, especially knowing what we know today about “near death experiences” (NDE’s). Was Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection akin somehow to an NDE? Let’s have a look and decide for ourselves whether or not Baigent’s scenario is in the least bit credible, perhaps even likely.

(This is a dense and complex consideration with many political and religious threads weaving through the fabric of the story. I will attempt to condense it into two or three installments. Encompassing the larger part of Jesus’ thirty-three years of life as recorded by the four Gospel writers, it is perhaps the most crucial and important period, as it was his formative years of preparation for the three-and-a-half years of his public ministry, which ended in his personal victory over death—which was the sole interest of the Gospel writers, though not the sole reason and purpose for Jesus’ life and mission, as we will see.)

Where did Jesus live as a young man?

According to three of the four Canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus was living in the town of Nazareth in Galilee in his youth. Luke says that Jesus grew up there and that he went with his family every year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was on one of those occasions that he was found debating with the learned scholars in the Temple. “Unfortunately,” Baigent writes, “there is no evidence whatsoever that Nazareth even existed in Jesus’ day.” Then, as is his style when he comes upon an inconsistency such as this, Baigent’s critical thinking and suspicions kick in. I love the manner in which he goes about questioning everything handed down as history. Here’s a taste of his reasoning and compelling writing:

The first mention of it appears no earlier than the third century A.D. Could this mention of an exchange at the Temple have been placed here as some kind of cover story for a period in Jesus’ life that was otherwise unaccounted for?

As far as the Gospels were concerned, Jesus appears to have vanished during his youth and early adulthood. But it was during those years that he learned the ideas, the beliefs, and the knowledge that he later taught. So where exactly was he? And why have his whereabouts been kept hidden? Had he been “talent-scouted” by priests or rabbis and whisked away for almost two decades of secret training? Surely the disciples must have known where Jesus had been. But what could have possibly been at stake, what problem could have arisen, through sharing this information? In fact, we cannot avoid asking, what were the writers of the Gospels intent on concealing?

Scholars over the years have speculated about this gap in the account of Jesus’ life. Some believe that Jesus traveled with his family to the East,

“far beyond the jurisdiction of the Romans, to Parthia, Persia, or beyond, to Afghanistan, or India. Even today there are many who believe that the shrine of Yus Asaph in Kashmir is that of Jesus himself who, after surviving the crucifixion, returned home to the East to live and ultimately die. There are also suggestions that he studied as a child under Buddhists—this would explain, it is said, the parallels that can be found between the teachings of Jesus and those of the Buddha. And we have the very early Christian community, centered in Malabar on the west coast of India, which claims to have been founded by the apostle Thomas. Surely where Thomas went then so too could Jesus have gone?

Is it possible that the Great Spirit who incarnated in Jesus is the same Divine Being who was also incarnate in the Buddha some six-hundred years earlier in Nepal, India?  Well, that’s getting a little ahead of the current story. There was no reason for Jesus to have fled Roman jurisdiction as he was not involved in the Zealot’s revolutionary activities against the Romans. Baigent reasons:

Any move he made out of Judea or Galilee must have been by choice rather than by coercion. But where could he have ventured, and why?

There is a single clue in the Bible, one in the Old Testament that is echoed in the New. As we have seen, it was important for Jesus to follow, to act out quite specifically, the predictions made by the Old Testament prophets in describing the coming of the messiah. We have already seen the very literal expression of these predictions during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when he finally went public with his messianic claims. We can therefore be confident in expecting that every messianic prediction in the Old Testament would be pressed into use in this manner.

In a real sense these predictions by the Prophets limited Jesus. They provided a set of boundaries within which his messianic mission needed to express itself. A particularly interesting prediction was given by the prophet Hosea (II:I): “When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt” (emphasis mine). Matthew (2:I5) picks up on this in one of the earliest prophetic predictions he mentions: in a garbled historical account, he records that the Holy Family fled into Egypt when Jesus was still a baby, explaining, “This was to fulfill what the Lord has spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my son out of Egypt.'”

I’ve learned that anywhere in the New Testament when these words “This was to fulfill . . .” are used to preface a Biblical event, one can be sure that what follows is a rationalization by the author(s)inserted into the text in order to connect the event with words of prophecy from the Old Testament. It’s like doing research in order to find something that backs up or proves one’s preconceived conclusion or beliefs.

Why Egypt?

AT THIS POINT, we cannot help but ask, why Egypt? This is a minor detail in Matthew’s Gospel and is treated as such in the Roman Church. But for the Egyptian Coptic Church, which separated from Rome in 451 following the Council of Chalcedon, it is a matter of considerable importance indeed. For almost a thousand years it has maintained a legend about the journey the Holy Family made into Egypt, all the sites they visited or resided at, and all the miracles that accompanied the presence of Jesus. This legend is called “The Vision of Theophilus.” Theophilus was patriarch of Alexandria and leader of the Egyptian church from A.D. 385 to 4I2, but the Vision seems not to have been written down until the eleventh or twelfth century

Given the highly devotional nature of the story and the very obvious use made of it to justify Jesus’ uniqueness and divinity, we can locate its theology far beyond the beliefs of the Jewish community in Egypt—the community that would have been giving refuge to Jesus’ family. What’s more, these same factors place the origins of the theology in an era following the dogmatic decisions of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. It seems fairly evident that the Vision—at the very least—is a product of Christian thought in the fourth century A.D. or later, and certainly not of Judaism or Judeo-Christianity. It therefore cannot be an accurate account of any such journey, although it may very well contain some elements of a real journey. Thus, we need to ask, whom does the story serve? Who would have benefited from its telling?

No one would have benefited more than the author of the Gospel of Matthew himself, as it added credibility to his Gospel. For less obvious reasons, the Coptic Church in Egypt would have benefited by the story of the Holy Family’s travels to the East. “The Coptic Church has been at odds with Rome for over six-hundred years, and its faith was at least tolerated by the Muslim rulers.” There appear to be political and economic factors influencing Mathew’s scenario.

If the Gospel of Matthew is given greater credence, then it stands to reason that various Egyptian holy places within the story would also be validated, thereby opening up a whole new pilgrim route that would include Egypt. With pilgrims, of course, came trade and gold.

Despite its deficiencies, the tale gives every appearance of picking up on local oral tradition or legend. And local legend is dismissed at one’s own peril, for local memories are long. There has certainly been a very ancient and widespread Jewish presence in Egypt—extensive enough to justify the story’s telling well into Islamic times.

There was a legitimate and functioning—although controversial—Jewish Temple in Egypt during the lifetime of Jesus. It was founded by the Zadokite high priest, Onias III, who built it upon the ruins of an old Bubastis temple in the Egyptian delta on the same design as the Temple of Jerusalem.

Onias III, a Zadokite priest, was forced to flee Israel to Egypt when Jerusalem was attacked by the Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphane in 170 B.C., and the Temple in Jerusalem was taken over by non-Zadokite priests allied with Epiphane. The Onias Temple with its Zadokite priest became the only legitimate Jewish Temple in the region. That is until his son, Onias IV, a military commander in the Egyptian army and a non-Zadokite priest, succeeded his father as high priest. This made the Onias Temple in Egypt illegitimate, a diminishing of status by Josephus that was used as his rationale for excluding it from serious academic consideration, by Josephus himself as well as by Philo of Alexandria—both of whom had friends in high places in Israel to placate; friends in the upper class wealthy Jewish sector as well as in the ruling class. Both groups wanted to put distance between them and the Zadokites and the Zealots associated with the Onias Temple in Egypt as well as the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Onias Temple was on the road that Jesus and his parents would have traveled from Judea to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt in order to avoid the strongly-influenced Jewish communities in Alexandria and Naucratis to the west. They would then have traveled south along this road that passed by Onias’ temple, where they would most likely have stopped and settled. Baigent reasons:

And it is highly unlikely that Jesus and his family, raised in a Zealot environment, one that hoped and prayed for a reinstatement of a Zadokite priesthood in the Temple of Jerusalem, would have just passed by this Egyptian Jewish temple. All of these observations lead naturally to the thought that the Temple of Onias served as the initial training site of Jesus. It was here perhaps that he received his introduction into the politically active world of the Zealots.

In a sense, we can see the temple as an overseas branch of Galilee where Greek-speaking Zealots could learn their trade. It would have also been a good place for Jesus’ family to bring him so that he could learn what it would mean to be the Messiah of Israel, for all the texts and commentaries on the role of the messiah would have been available there. So we do now have a good reason for the Holy Family to have traveled to Egypt, and a reason for Matthew’s brief comment, disguised as a flight from the dangers posed by Herodian infanticide. In fact, it would seem not to have been a flight at all but rather a positive action undertaken in order to allow Jesus to grow, to study, and to teach away from the troubles in Judaea and Galilee.

Despite his training in the Zealot cause, Jesus, as we have seen, at some point secretly took another path – one revealed only after he had been anointed as messiah [by Mary of Bethany, who was also Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ wife and companion], when it was far too late for anybody to challenge him. That path was a more mystical path. Yet where in the Jewish world of Egypt could he have learned such a path? For the answer to this question, we need to look at one of the mystical groups of the time, one described by Philo of Alexandria.

In my next post I will consider the Therapeutae healers in Egypt with whom Jesus may have studied and developed his own gift of healing. I will also consider a most enlightening chapter of Baigent’s book that tells about the mysticism of Egypt and the rituals of initiation into the Mystery School and what was called “incubation,” a most interesting and exciting consideration that may shed light on what really happened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, stay tuned.

Anthony Palombo

Read my Health Light Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com – shedding light on health issues from a Holistic perspective and paradigm.

 

 

 

 

 

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