Esotericism (XIV): Esotericism & Gnosticism

Esotericism (XIV): Esotericism & Gnosticism

- in Esotericism


1. J. C. Pearce is not an esotericist or occultist, as far as I know, but he is a practical philosopher and an expert on child psychology. In his Biology of Transcendence (2002, Rochester, Vermont), he wrote: “We invariably build religions around our spiritual giants, or use them to support a religion to avoid a shift of mind and disruption of culture these rare people bring about” (p 6). He added later – “The early evangelists didn’t hesitate to [change] the radical nature of Jesus’ message itself in order that it might be heard and accepted” (p 155).

2. Anyone who studies with an open mind the Christian Gnostic texts and the writings comprising the New Testament realises that the latter with its biographical, soteriological and apocalyptical aspects is directed towards the multitudes.

Not that St Paul’s theology in his Epistles appeals easily to common people. In fact, it is obvious that he never met the real Christ or was much interested in him or his mother. There is no evidence that he visited the places where Jesus lived, taught and was crucified and buried. And there are hardly any references to Jesus’ teaching: the writing is more Hebrew Pauline theology. And when he presents the exemplary woman giving birth, it is not Mary, Jesus’ mother, but Abraham’s Sara – Hebrews 11:11! Peter too in his 1st General Epistle, 3:3, refers to Sara, not Mary, as example of obedient wife! I find all this quite extraordinary, i.e. that Jesus’ mother should be so discarded! (Unless these writers never knew Jesus’ family or unless Jesus’ mother in purely human terms was not such an exemplary wife and mother!)

3. It is the Gospels, of course, that win the day with Jesus’ life story, the choosing of disciples, his verbal attacks on the powerful enemies (i.e. the priestly class who plot against him), the multiform miracles (especially the resurrections) and finally his own crucifixion, resurrection, reappearance and eventual mysterious ascent to heaven.

The teaching is for the most part expressed in simple statements (except in John) and simple language. It can be easily understood and memorized. But its practical application must have been as difficult then as it is today. Love one another. Love your enemies. You commit adultery even by looking with desire at a woman (or man, presumably).

However, salvation will come with belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God and sole Saviour! Moreover, he will come again soon, even as this world is destroyed, and his angels will gather up and save the elect, the true believers.

4. There is no cosmogony nor anthropogony in the Four Canonical Gospels (except the very brief esoteric opening of John). I suppose the believers would turn to the early chapters of Genesis in the Hebrew Old Testament for these subjects.

On the other hand, there is a very different cosmogony and anthropogony in the Gnostic texts. Here the worlds come out of the Godhead and evolve in increasing density and diminishing intelligence, as it is given in Vedāntic texts and Esotericism.

As I pointed out in the previous paper Esotericism (XIII): Gnostic and Upanishadic parallels §6, Man is the first born of the Godhead (Apocryphon of John 4:23 and Bṛhadāraṇyaka Up 1.4.1). Man issues directly out of substance of the Godhead and in his life he must strive, having felt the “call”, to return to that original state with the guidance of a teacher.

In my view, not the NT but the Gnostic texts contain a truer presentation of Jesus’ teaching and are closer to perennial Esotericism. After all, Vedānta, Gnosticism and Esotericism do not postulate one and only divine incarnation (as institutionalised Christianity and the NT do for Jesus Christ) but accept many such incarnations.

And salvation does not come about as a result of mere belief in a Saviour and the mechanical following of dogmas and stereotyped rituals but protracted personal effort and application of ethical principles and practical measures in daily life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *