In 200 A.D. Saint Clement of Alexandria wrote his book The Stromata; in it, he writes
“The mysteries of the faith are not to be divulged to all. It is requisite… to hide in a mystery the wisdom spoken, which the son of God taught.”
– St. Clement of Alexandria,The Stromata, ch. 12 (circa 200 AD)
Saint Clement is pointing towards the topic of our course: Esoteric Christianity.
The word esoteric has the root eso, which means interior or within. Esoteric, coming from the Greek word esotericos, means:
- Intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group.
- Understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest.
- Belonging to the select few.
Saint Clement is telling us that there are mysteries within the Christian Doctrine, and they are not normally exposed, unless you have had some type of special teaching.
We can find within the New Testament what Jesus states about the mysteries.
In Matthew 13 it is written:
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
Normally, everyone seems to think that these mysteries are exposed by some simple reading of the Bible. Actually, the word itself, mystery, μυστήριον (mustérion) in Greek, means “something secret.”
- something of which initiation is necessary
- a mystery or secret doctrine;
- from mustés (one initiated)
Saint Clement is telling us that there are those that are initiated, and they can understand the mysteries. Jesus is saying that there are some who are initiated into his teachings and they understand the mystery, but for those who are not initiated, what they understand is something else, they understand it at their own level.
This is the power of the parable. In fact the full quote of Saint Clement is as follows:
“The mysteries of the faith are not to be divulged to all. But since this tradition is not published alone for him who perceives the magnificence of the word; it is requisite, therefore, to hide in a mystery the wisdom spoken, which the Son of God taught.”
– St. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, ch. 12 (circa 200 AD)
In other words, there are different types of people, some who are ready, some who perceive the true magnificence of the world. This is St. Clement alluding to the initiates, those who are initiated into that mystery, into understanding esoteric Christianity. For those who are not ready, they understand a lesser teaching, a teaching that is more appropriate for them.
If we go to the Old Testament, which is, of course, is the Torah, we find more evidence. The first five books of the Old Testament is the Torah of Judaism. The mystical commentary of the Zohar writes
All matters in the Torah are of a superior nature and are uppermost secrets.
Woe to those wicked who say that the Torah is merely a story and nothing more, for they look at the dress and no further.
– Zohar, Bamidbar 152a
So the mysterious, initiated, or esoteric doctrine of Christianity finds its roots in the Old Testament, which also has an esoteric doctrine.
Saint Paul in the 1:3 Corinthians says
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
I fed you with milk and not with meat; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able…
– 1 Corinthians 3:1-2
During this time it was very important to keep those who were not prepared for the esoteric doctrine, to give them a teaching which would help prepare them; and for those who were prepared, it was important to give them that same inner esoteric doctrine we have been speaking about.
The very beautiful nature of the Bible, and many of the scriptures, is that both of those teachings are within the same books, within the same scriptures. And, as Jesus states, those who have ears to hear it, and eyes to see it, they see the level of teaching they can comprehend. As Paul states, some are not ready for the meat, they are not ready for the solid food, they are ready for the milk.
So, this is the way it has been for a long time. Unfortunately, the modern forms of Christianity that are popular and prevalent deny an esoteric aspect to Christianity. Just as the Zohar has stated, what happens is that they inherit only the cloak, only the outer dress of the teachings, which are good, but only for a certain level. They have lost the inner doctrine, the esoteric form of Christianity.
Without the esoteric level of the teachings, the tradition as a whole suffers incoherence. If you literally read the bible, you will find all sorts of contradictions. For someone who critically analyzes that – if there is no inner teaching – all that can be seen is something that contradicts itself or something that appears superficial. This is the main reason why many people have left their traditional religion, because they can only find the lower level, the milk, and they are ready to receive the solid food, the meat.
There are good, legitimate reasons to have an inner doctrine, but today things have obviously changed quite a bit from 2,000 years ago. Today we see we live in an age of information, for today it is more important to set that information correct, because not everybody that claims to possess the inner teachings legitimately has them. So, we need to clarify exactly what this esoteric Christianity is, and that's the purpose of this course.
We must come to recognize an esoteric Christianity has existed and that such an esoteric Christianity must exist, because as we said, different types of people exist, and we need to have a different type of doctrine available for all of those types' of people. There are many people today who view the Bible as taught, as something very simplistic, incoherent, and not substantial. Those people end up leaving the religion because they don't find a level of guidance appropriate for them. This is how many people end up looking for something deeper, and indeed there is an esoteric Christianity.
For us, it is not a debate, it is not a question; it is a living reality. With that being said, let us make some differentiation between the exoteric (outer) traditional forms of Christianity as it is normally known and esoteric Christianity.
In traditional forms of Christianity, there is the doctrine of justification, which defines the removing of our guilt and penalty of sin, and making the sinner righteous again. The core idea is that the life of Jesus Christ atoned for all the sins of the world, and through either faith alone (if you are a Protestant), or good works based upon faith, this justification is accomplished. In this interpretation, there is a substitutionary atonement that the life and works, the drama of Jesus Christ, made. The atonement, because Jesus died on the cross, the sins of all of us are washed away. This is viewed, in the exoteric way, as a historical fact.
From inner, esoteric Christianity, all of this must be understood as something happening within our heart and mind, within our soul and spirit. Yes, Jesus Christ indeed was (and continues to be) a person of great exultation who provides the teaching and the way. But the events of the New Testament are not merely a historical recounting. Those events of the New Testament are pointing towards spiritual realities that must occur within ourselves.
All of the characters of the Bible are related to certain aspects of ourselves. In esoteric Christianity what is meant by the “world” is our own inner world. So, Jesus, this master of history, this historical master, is teaching about the inner Jesus Christ, which is an element or principle within ourselves.
That principle must come into our world, in order to wash away all of our mistakes, and we play an active part of that. This is something we must perform, something we must do, and it is a path of intense struggle and profound works within ourselves, and, through those works, we are able to know and comprehend the nature of divinity.
In traditional, exoteric forms of Christianity, inquiring within oneself to discover and fundamentally change one's inner condition, to eliminate all of the sins of our mind and heart, is seen as something impossible for the individual to do. Instead, one must simply do good works or have a belief, and whatever needs to happen within one's self will happen by God's will.
The esoteric aspect and teachings states that we actually have to make an active effort to look with ourselves, to transform ourselves, and we do that only through the cooperation of the Lord. We can do it, because we have a spark of inner divinity within us. That spark is the source of our grace. It is the Gift of God that allows us to work within ourselves, that we are capable of making these transformations within ourselves.
The Lord is cooperating with our spiritual work. There is an aspect, a spark of divinity within ourselves, which connects us to the universal cosmic force called Christ. And therefore we must do this work, we must find that connection within ourselves. This is what esoteric Christianity is always pointing towards.
From a traditional exoteric perspective, it is seen that the individual is not capable of radically transforming their self. The mind is viewed as a den of thieves, that one should not dwell within one's mind too much, that it is the “devil's playground.”
From an esoteric standpoint, we agree that the mind is a den of thieves, and it is the devils playground, but it is precisely for that reason we must begin to pay attention to all that is happening within our self. Through the cooperation of Christ, through the capability of that divine spark which we have, we are able to develop, and grow, and multiply the light within our self.
We are capable of eliminating (with the cooperation of the Lord) all that is which is not the truth, all of the lying and sinning qualities of our mind. And what comes forth is light, and consciousness, and universal compassion, and all of the beautiful qualities that we strive for.
Exoteric Christianity teaches a lot of very good things, a lot of necessary things about how to live a good life, how to produce a stable life, how to live in this world. But it does not teach, and does not permit, in most cases, the inner working, the development of one's own soul within. It does not view the soul as something that must be developed, and this is one of the primary differences between exoteric Christianity and esoteric Christianity.
Esoteric Christianity views the soul as something that must be worked with, that we must develop our soul, and that our works and efforts are very necessary. It is not that one can, through their egotistical will, find salvation, no. But it is necessary for us to do good works and transform our state of mind through a contemplative lifestyle, to transform our self through the power and glory of God. The efforts that take place within esoteric Christianity are impossible without God.
Unlike the traditional forms of Christianity, we must learn in esoteric Christianity to work upon one’s self, to inquire within our mind, to eliminate our defects. Our side of the work is just as important as God's side of the work. In esoteric Christianity, it is understood that we can know and experience God directly. This is one of the main differences.
In the traditional forms of Christianity, God can only be understood or experienced through the conduit of the Church. In terms of exoteric Christianity, God can only be understood within the confines of the Church, that the Church and the consecrated Priests, and Bishops and Cardinals are the conduit from God to man.
Every Church believes that they are the “special” church, and they are the physical exponent of the Lord’s greatness. Different churches believe they are the one and only holy church of this or that. A Protestant viewpoint is that you need the true, right, correct belief in Jesus, and that is the conduit or the pathway to salvation.
Esoteric Christianity states that we must come to know God. Not only can we know God directly, not only can we comprehend the nature of God, but, moreover we must do that. That is the whole point of esoteric Christianity, to fully develop the soul. The full development of the soul is possible, Christ enters into the soul that has been completely purified and developed.
From the traditional, exoteric forms of Christianity, Christ is seen as a person of history, someone who came and who is still in heaven, still active, and believing in that is what is most important.
In esoteric Christianity, what is important is to incarnate Christ. In esoteric Christianity, Christ is not a person; Christ is an energy. Christ, truly, is beyond energy. Christ is a universal comic principle. Christ is the source of universal compassion.
Jesus, whom we call Christ, is a particular spiritual Master, Jesus was a real true Rabbi. He purified his soul to such a degree that the Christ incarnated within him. He taught that, and when he spoke, literally he was speaking the words of Christ.
Χριστός (Christ): Christos, “the Anointed One,” and Krestos, whose esoteric meaning is “fire.” The word Christ is a title, not a personal name.
What is Christ? Christ comes form a Greek word christos, and christos means one who is anointed, meaning anointed with an oil. Christ from an esoteric standpoint means fire. Christ from an esoteric standpoint is a title. It is not a personal name, Christ is not a person. So, Jesus was and is a person who acquired or incarnated this universal fire, this universal force, this universal light which is Christ.
In Luke 12 it is written:
“I [Christ] am come to send fire on the earth...” – Luke 12:49
This is the mission of Christ. In esoteric Christianity, all of the events of the Bible need to be understood as something within.
In traditional Christianity, all those events took place literally outside in the world. Actually, all of those events were all parables. There really is no exact, literal historical truth in the Bible.
There are certain events that occurred in the past, and those who were initiated into these teachings would take the literal events and mingle them with esoteric truths, with profound truths, and they would display and write down a history that would give a meaning for those who are not initiated. It is a very good meaning that was often related to physical truths, but never the literal truth.
The Bible has never been a newspaper, and it should not be read like a newspaper. It should be read in terms of parables, in terms of spiritual teachings and truths. If you understand it at a lower level, it teaches you how to live within the world in a very good way. If you understand it in the esoteric level, it teaches you how to transform your soul, and how to acquire all the powers, all the cognizance, all the wisdom, all of the compassion, all of the beauty and glory of the soul. This is what we are called to do, this is the esoteric path of Christianity.
We find in Luke chapter 11:
“Woe unto you, you knowers of the Law [Torah]! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge [γνῶσις, gnosis]: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”
– Luke 11:52
The knowers of the law have taken away the key of knowledge. Knowledge in the original language is gnosis. Gnosis is written in Greek, which is γνῶσις (gamma nu omega sigma iota sigma) which in English letters you can translate as g-n-o-s-i-s. Gnosis.
Gnosis is knowledge. What tends to happen, and what Jesus was talking about, was that these esoteric teachings have become lost for various reasons. Jesus states that those who knew these teachings were not giving them properly, they were holding onto them too jealously, and they themselves were not living those inner teachings, and they were not teaching others. So, he said, “ye entered not in yourselves, and not in them that were entering, ye hindered”.
Gnosis is a word that has been used by a lot of different groups, and it is where we get the word Gnostic. There has been a lot said about Gnostics, it is very difficult to understand, based on what has been written about Gnostics, to really understand what Gnosticism actually is. Unfortunately, there is a lot of groups, ancient and modern, who state they are Gnostic but really they are not. They really don’t have these teachings, they have degenerated them. And there are others who wrote about the Gnostics, again, ancient and contemporary, who never understood the secret knowledge, they were never initiated into the secret teachings. Therefore, they could not tell the difference between those Gnostics who were really degenerated, and those Gnostics who were actually holding up the mantle of the true esoteric teaching.
Of all the writings about Gnostics, it is very difficult to get some clear understanding, and a lot of people have a negative connotation concerning the Gnostics. But here we can see that a Gnostic is someone who has gnosis, and gnosis is spiritual knowledge. Such is the true meaning in accordance with esoteric Christianity.
Jesus was born in a sect called the Essenes, which was an esoteric sect of Judaism. From there, he was initiated into the mysteries, and of course many other things happened during all of those years which are not accounted for in the Bible. When Jesus came to teach, he came to teach a very profound teaching, and many people were not agreeable to that, each is why there is all of the drama that is going on.
We must understand The New Testament as an accounting of events that are occurring within our heart and mind. When these teachings come into us, we try to change as a person. We try to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, but it is very difficult. There are aspects of yourself which don’t want to change. There are aspects of us which is like a tyrant, that doesn’t want to hear these things, that doesn't want to change, it just wants to do whatever it wants to do. This is our ego.
The ego is our personal Satan. So, not only is all of the characters, all of the prophets all the teachers of the Bible related to spiritual elements within ourselves, but all of the negative things in the Bible are also related to negative aspects within ourself.
Satan is within our self and we have to work to eliminate Satan. In 1:2 Corthinians Paul writes:
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom [σοφία, sophia] among them that are perfect [τελείοις, teleios]: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery [μυστήριον, mustérion], even the hidden [ἀποκρύπτω, apokruptó] wisdom [σοφία, sophia], which God ordained before the world unto our glory…
– 1 Corinthians 2
Obviously, Paul was initiated into these teachings, Paul knew the esoteric doctrine. There are many people who only want to associate the word Gnostic with a particular time frame, but really the best way to understand what is a Gnostic, is someone who has the esoteric teachings. This is because the word gnostic comes from Gnosis, and Gnosis means hidden knowledge. So, Paul, legitimately, was Gnostic.
The original church founded by Jesus had the esoteric teachings, so it was a Gnostic Catholic Church, a truly universal church. That is what the word ‘catholic’ actually means: something that is universal. The universal knowledge, that is within ourself, that can set us free.
As it is stated, the truth shall set us free, but we have to come to know that truth within ourself. The secret teachings are pointing towards a secret truth within our self. We have to discover the truth within our self, but that truth is obscured, it is hidden, it is difficult to access.
In order to access that truth, you have to begin to live life in a certain way. You have to do certain types of practices, because any type of real gnostic, anybody who is truly living esoterically, the esoteric Christian doctrine, this person is a contemplative, this person is someone who is meditating, going ‘within’.
Many people believe that meditation is only something that belongs to the East, of course, this is wrong. Anyone who has studied The Philokalia or the Christian Desert Fathers would know that there is tremendous wisdom relating to meditation in a Christian sense, and we need to learn how to do that. Then we come to know ourselves, and that knowledge of one's self is gnosis, this is the key that unlocks the truth within ourselves, that sets us free.
As we can see in First Corinthians 2, Paul states that we speak wisdom among them that are perfect. Perfect is teleios, and those who are perfect are those that are like Jesus Christ.
The wisdom of those that are perfect is not the wisdom of this world, it is not the exoteric literal historical wisdom of this world, nor is it of the princes of this world, the leaders of this world, which comes to nothing, because everything of this world passes away.
We speak the wisdom of God in mystery, the hidden wisdom. So, all of us must endeavor to reach this stage of perfection, the one who achieves that stage of perfection has truly transcended this current state; this is what esoteric Christianity is saying is possible.
Esoteric Chirstanty is not just another set of beliefs, it is not just another set of philosophical musings, or a different cosmology, or a different way of understanding the creation of the universe. All of those things may be different in terms of esoteric Christianity, and we can speak in more depth in relationship to the origin of the universe, the philosophical, epistemological views of the way we experience life, and all sorts of other philosophical things, but none of that matters if we fail to live the actual lifestyle, which is to inquire within ourselves.
When we begin to hold ourselves accountable for all the actives of our minds and hearts, then we are becoming ready to engage, to hear, to become ready to accept the esoteric teachings. So long as we are blaming others, so long as we continue to believe that there is nothing that can be done to change our inner self, then we are not ready.
We will end this lecture with a couple of quotes from Samael Aun Weor.
In order to understand the Bible, one needs to be a Gnostic, because the Bible is a highly symbolic book, and if we try to read it in the Protestant style, like one who reads newspaper columns, we fall into the most terrible absurdities.
– Samael Aun Weor, The Seven Words
In truth, if we read the bible literally, it doesn't make any sense, and this is enough proof to state that the literal interpretations of the Bible are incoherent.
These are the mysteries of the Gospels that must be lived here and now, within ourselves.
The life, passion, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ is not something that is strictly historic as people believe. It is something of immediate actuality that each one must perform in his or her laboratory.
This is what the crude reality of Christ is. It is not something from the history of the past that occurred two thousand years ago, it is something to be lived here and now.
– Samael Aun Weor, The Archeus
In this lecture we have just begun to scratch the surface, we have not yet actually talked much about what this esoteric teaching is. We have simply stated that such teaching exists.
In our following lectures, we will begin to teach the actual ways of understanding the Bible in order to live in accordance with esoteric Christianity.