The Real Story Behind Esoteric Christianity
After the "death" of Jesus, there arose many different splinter groups that claimed to follow his teachings. There was the continuation of Gnosticism, the apocryphal verses, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and many other groups and texts, all of which PREDATE the highly structured, organized, and dogmatic Church of today, and many of which are rooted in esoteric and hidden Inner Mystery teachings regarding Christianity.
Many of these early esoteric Christian groups would now be considered heretical (keep in mind most were considered heretical even back then). They drew influence from non-Christian philosophies like Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, and other ancient schools of thought that had existed long before "Christianity" was created. In fact, the influence of philosophies like Neoplatonism on Christianity is undeniable.
Much as Christianity would hate to admit it, the teachings of the man from Galilee were not anything new; he simply taught old lessons in a revolutionary new way. Whereas the Wisdom of the ancients was usually reserved for a select and privileged few, this Jesus - taught anyone who would listen (though there were indeed a select few who were taught the deeper meaning behind Jesus' parables, allegories, and teachings).
The biggest influence that Neoplatonism and Hermeticism (named for Hermes) had on Christianity was the idea of spiritual rebirth into a higher consciousness. This is the central message of most "religions," but it is much easier said than done to actually raise oneself from the slumber of ignorance to the awakened state of knowledge. This requires dedication, time, and patience, attributes that the masses as a whole do not possess. It is because of this reality that "religion" has replaced "spirituality." Spirituality can be said to be more of an esoteric, personal connection to the Creator/Source, whereas religion is an exoteric, watered-down, "one size fits all" version of a higher reality. Among the ancients, initiates took many years to learn the Inner Mysteries from the great Mystery Schools in those times.
Jesus' teachings (not "Christianity") were simply part of an ancient system of knowledge. When we study the history of the Bible and the history of the Church it becomes clear to us that the present version of Christianity is a corruption of what Jesus is credited with having taught. It is an insult to the legacy of these great teachings. Modern "Christianity" is a corrupt and tainted form of a great system of ancient knowledge and Wisdom.
Jesus did not claim to be the one and only son of God. It may appear that way superficially, due to the editing of the Bible after the death of Jesus and the influence of the first ecumenical Council at Nicaea, but when one examines the teachings more closely, it becomes evident that Jesus' main lesson was that we are ALL the children of God. Go to the original Greek and you will read "A son of God" ... not "THE son of God." We all have the potential to become Christlike.
"Christ" was originally a title that comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning "anointed" or "anointed one." Later on it was used specifically in reference to Jesus of Nazareth ... which should have been Jesus the Nazarene since the Nozrim (Nazarenes) were a Jewish sect and the place called Nazareth hadn't existed yet.
Jesus spoke in esoteric parables to try to get his followers to understand the higher truths of life, but unfortunately, most did not comprehend the profundity and meaning of the many parables which Jesus spoke. These were allegories with deeper Truths hidden beneath the surface story. The story itself many times was insignificant and was designed to reveal a much deeper message ... For those who had eyes to see and ears to hear.
There were, however, a few individuals who did indeed understand the "hidden" aspects of the teachings. The Gnostic groups were among those who DID understand. "Gnostic" comes from the Greek word "gnosis," which means knowledge. The various Gnostic groups looked beyond the teachings of Jesus to gain a more comprehensive view of the ancient school of knowledge to which Jesus' teachings belonged. They realized that Jesus was only one great teacher out of many ... or perhaps an anthropomorphic representative of the school of ancient thought.
Unfortunately, the Gnostic groups and other early Christians were persecuted and declared heretics after the first Council at at Emperor Constantine's Council of Nicaea. In 325 AD, due to disputes over what "Christianity" should be, a religious council was assembled in Nicaea (present day Turkey) to try to settle the disputes and establish an "official" version of Christianity. Overseeing this council was the Roman Emperor Constantine, who ultimately decided what exactly this new "Universal" ("Catholic" in Greek) Church would include.
At Nicaea, it was established that a man named Jesus was "of the same substance" as God. It was declared that Jesus was the Divine "son" of God and that mankind could only be saved through him. It was established that salvation could only be reached through one's belief in the Crucifixion and Resurrection. In other words, it was made a dogmatic law that one could only be saved if one believed that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. This is a completely false rendering of the original teachings, which taught that humanity could only be saved (awakened from ignorance and doing the right things) by and through humanity itself. Furthermore, subsequent councils further established the many dogmatic laws still followed today by most Christians. The Bible has been changed countless times. The Oldest known Bible in existence is the Sinai Bible (in the British Museum) dated to the 1100's. 500 years later came the King James. There are over 18,000 discrepancies in the two versions. Hardly inerrant.
During his rule, Constantine saw the power of an organized state religion. The Roman Empire at that time was full of "Pagans," and Constantine knew that it would be beneficial to his empire to squash all forms of "Paganism" and adopt the new form of Christianity established at Nicaea. In about 397 AD, the Bible was canonized and made "official" as well. Countless verses were changed to fit the needs of the new Christian Church. Countless books were left out, most notably those that portrayed Jesus in a more human light and those that spoke of the real path to salvation -- knowledge. These apocryphal texts are still used in some denominations of Christianity, especially the older ones like the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Egyptian Coptic Church. The ancient scrolls found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt and the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Palestine contain many apocryphal chapters not found in the Catholic or Protestant Bibles of today, and they reveal philosophies that, if made available to the masses of Christians, would almost completely negate and refute the accepted dogmas of modern Christianity.
Unfortunately, these apocryphal doctrines will probably never be made entirely public (the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi scrolls are indeed available, but they are not accepted as relevant to Christianity today, and the Church has done a great job hiding these texts from most believers). When one reads these apocryphal scriptures, it is evident why the Church has worked so hard to hide or at least refute them.
When a person understands that knowledge is the key to salvation, it is difficult to control that person. They become empowered. When a person believes that the key to salvation is the belief in the Son of God dying for the "sins" of humanity, it is far easier to control that person. Why? Because that person then believes that he or she is inherently evil and a sinner and in need of salvation from his or her "sins." That person then believes that in order to be "saved," he or she must follow the dogmas of Christianity. Unfortunately, these dogmas are not Jesus' laws. These dogmas are the creations of men whose only interest was/is in power and control. In reality, the only real sin is ignorance. And the Truth ... will make you free.
Read this verse from the Gospel of Thomas, one of the apocryphal texts left out of the Bible:
"When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty."
Much has been hidden from us. The ancient Wisdom of previous civilizations freely shared in open forums. Only God/Source knows what will one day be discovered in the 66 miles of shelving underground in the Vatican Archives.
Just a thought ...
~Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.