Tag Archives: Mysteries

Was Pontius Pilate an Initiate?

Last blog, we looked at the meaning of the inscription INRI that Pontius Pilate wrote on a plaque and had placed on the cross above the head of Jesus. Who was this governor of Judea?

To answer this, we should review an apocryphal book entitled the Acts of Pilate. Here is a letter from Pilate to Emperor Tiberias. This is found in the Greek Acts of Peter and Paul and as an appendix to the Gospel of Nicodemus in Latin. The translation is from M. R. James:

There befell of late a matter which I myself brought to light (or, made trial of): for the Jews through envy have punished themselves and their posterity with fearful judgements of their own fault; for whereas their fathers had promises (al. had announced unto them) that their God would send them out of heaven his holy one who should of rightly be called their king, and did promise that he would send him upon earth by a virgin; he then (or this God of the Hebrews, then) came when I was governor of Judea, and they beheld him enlightening the blind, cleansing lepers, healing the palsied, driving devils out of men, raising the dead, rebuking the winds, walking upon the waves of the sea dry-shod, and doing many other wonders, and all the people of the Jews calling him the Son of God: the chief priests therefore, moved with envy against him, took him and delivered him unto me and brought against him one false accusation after another, saying that he was a sorcerer and did things contrary to law.

But I, believing that these things were so, having scourged him, delivered him unto their will: and they crucified him, and when he was buried they set guards upon him. But while my soldiers watched him he rose again on the third day: yet so much was the malice of the Jews kindled that they gave money to the soldiers, saying: Say ye that his disciples stole away his body. But they, though they took the money, were not able to keep silence concerning that which had come to pass, for they also have testified that they saw him arisen and that they received money from the Jews. And these things have I reported (unto thy mightiness) for this cause, lest some other should lie unto thee (Lat. lest any lie otherwise) and though shouldest deem right to believe the false tales of the Jews.

It is possible, even likely, that many (perhaps all?) of the early texts were altered (or forged) in order to persuade people.  In earlier ages, the role of scribe required the utmost integrity and ethically sound character. By the 2nd century AD, alteration of sacred texts was all too frequent.

New Testament Documents book coverF. F. Bruce, in his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? writes “About AD 150 Justin Martyr, addressing his Defence of Christianity to the Emperor Antoninius Pius, referred him to Pilate’s report, which Justin supposed must be preserved in the imperial archives. ‘But the words, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” ‘ he says, ‘are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the “Acts” which were recorded under Pontius Pilate.” Later he says: ‘That He performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate.”

Another historian, Johannes Quasten, in his bookPatrology, cites church father Tertullian who “refers twice to a report made by Pilate to Tiberius. According to him, Pontius Pilate informed the Emperor of the unjust sentence of death which he had pronounced against an innocent and divine person; the Emperor was so moved by his report of the miracles of Christ and his resurrection, that he proposed the reception of Christ among the gods of Rome. But the Senate refused (Apologeticum 5). In another place Tertullian says that the ‘whole story of Christ was reported to Caesar—at that time it was Tiberius—by Pilate, himself in his secret heart already a Christian’ (Apol. 21, 24).”

PatrologyIf we now turn to the Gospel of Judas, we find that the heresy hunters of the 2nd century, such as Irenaeus, were particularly upset by Gnostics and they felt this gospel could not be authentic because of the Gnostic tones in it. I quote from the above link for Roberts-Donaldson translation of this section from Irenaeus:

Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.

Duccio Kiss of JudasWe find that in this story Judas was only following Christ’s instructions to “betray him.” Why? Christ knew his time was at hand. The time for the Greatest Cosmic Deed had come. The crucifixion had to take place. This God had to experience Death to become fully Human. This Son of Man had to become the Second Adam, to open a new path of Resurrection. The Cosmic significance of this event, with the cross placed on the skull of Adam, can be overwhelming. The Earth now begins her journey to become a new Sun.  Once the Earth and Sun were one and then they were separated. At this Turning Point in Time, the Earth was changed by the blood of this Human-God, Jesus-Christ, flowing into the soil on Golgotha.  Like homeopathy, this small amount of spiritualized blood began to transform. Judas fulfilled his terrible mission. So too did Pilate. To ensure that they fulfilled their respective missions, they were somewhat aware. No human being at this time could rise to the heights of consciousness to fully grasp this event. But Hellenism, the Essenes and the Gnostics had preserved enough, just enough, for some to grasp this Mystery of Golgotha.

G.W. Barkley
G.W. Barkley

Lastly, we look at G.W. Barkley’s book on Origen where we find Origen explains how we cannot fault Pilate who can be taken as “a prepared man.” Origen goes on to say, “Certainly he was the judge of the nation itself who sent him by his sentence ‘into the wilderness.’ But hear how he was washed and made clean. When he had said to the people, ‘Do you want me to release to you Jesus, who is called the Christ,’ and all the people had shouted out, saying, ‘If you release this one, you are not a friend of Caesar,’ then it says ‘Pilate demanded water and washed his hands before the people, saying, I am clean from his blood; you should see to it.’ Thus, therefore, by washing his hands he will appear to be made clean.” G.W. Barkley, Origen, Homilies on Leviticus: 1-16 (Fathers of the Church, 63; Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), pg 204-205. Even Pilate’s wife, through a dream [the old way of spiritual inspiration], knew this man was innocent and that Pilate should remain ‘clean’ in the outcome. Many high ranking officials in this time had sought and received initiation into one or another Mystery. His washing of his hands after handling the freeing of either Jesus Christ or Jesus Barabbas could be seen as the action of a cultic priest after handling a sacrifice.

The Gospel of Nicodemus has an appendix entitle The Acts of Peter and Paul in which the words of Pilate’s letter to Emperor Claudius is contained as follows

Pontius Pilate unto Claudius, greeting.

There befell of late a matter which I myself brought to light (or, made trial of): for the Jews through envy have punished themselves and their posterity with fearful judgements of their own fault; for whereas their fathers had promises (al. had announced unto them) that their God would send them out of heaven his holy one who should of right be called their king, and did promise that he would send him upon earth by a virgin; he then (or this God of the Hebrews, then) came when I was governor of Judea, and they beheld him enlightening the blind, cleansing lepers, healing the palsied, driving devils out of men, raising the dead, rebuking the winds, walking upon the waves of the sea dry-shod, and doing many other wonders, and all the people of the Jews calling him the Son of God: the chief priests therefore, moved with envy against him, took him and delivered him unto me and brought against him one false accusation after another, saying that he was a sorcerer and did things contrary to law.

But I, believing that these things were so, having scourged him, delivered him unto their will: and they crucified him, and when he was buried they set guards upon him. But while my soldiers watched him he rose again on the third day: yet so much was the malice of the Jews kindled that they gave money to the soldiers, saying: Say ye that his disciples stole away his body. But they, though they took the money, were not able to keep silence concerning that which had come to pass, for they also have testified that they saw him arisen and that they received money from the Jews. And these things have I reported (unto thy mightiness) for this cause, lest some other should lie unto thee (Lat. lest any lie otherwise) and though shouldest deem right to believe the false tales of the Jews

Pilate likely had been initiated into a lesser Mystery and, perhaps, to an even higher degree. His inscription INRI shows remarkable insights into who Christ Jesus was but like other initiates of this time, he could not fathom the depth of what was about to take place, the Turning Point in Time, the Fulfillment of the Mysteries, The Great Mystery of All – the Mystery of Golgotha.

 

What Role Did the Ancient Mysteries Play for Early Christianity?

Something that most historians miss is the role that the Ancient Mysteries had in the ease of the spread of Christianity.  After the event of Whitsun, some of the disciples and those with them began missions to spread Christianity.  Where did they go? They went to the Mystery Centers throughout the world.  There the initiates could understand them and could approach a grasp of the Mystery of Golgotha.  The apostles said to the initiates of the Mystery Centers, “What your mystery foresaw, what it prepared you for, has taken place.  Your mystery is fulfilled. Christ the Sun God Mosaic St. Peters Basilica Rome fourth century

In Persia they may have said, “The Sun God, Ahura Mazdao, who has long been expected, has come.” In other places, similar wording may have been spoken.  The initiates could see the souls of the apostles and see what Whitsun had done to them.  They could understand that what their mystery had awaited, had arrived and been fulfilled.

Further, they understood that the new Mysteries could now begin.  They brought forth their pupils and they listened to and learned from the apostles.  They easily became Christians.

Each such mystery center then practiced Christianity according to their customs that were renewed by the new customs learned from the apostles.   But each such mystery center had its traditions and customs and knowledge.  They interpreted the scriptures perhaps differently than another mystery center.  So different “flavors” of Christianity came to be.

In the 3rd century, the battle between the converted mystery-stream Christians and the proto-orthodox forces intensified to the point that both sides altered the scriptures to agree with their position. Many of today’s books of the Christian Bible were altered making some passages suspect. Modern day scholars claim that they can detect such alterations or insertions by how the style of writing changes. For example, passages where Paul excludes women seem to have been added by proto-orthodox zealots.

The internal battles must have driven Constantine crazy.  So he called for the leaders to get together and unify Christianity.  Out of this the Nicene Creed was adopted but several Christian groups could not accept this creed. At one point in history, there likely were more Christians who did not ascribe to the Nicene Creed than did. These were located mostly from the middle east eastward to China. Many were part of the Nestorian church.

So, the fading Mystery Centers knew their time was coming to an end. Many centers had already closed by the time Christianity began to spread.  These centers, with their wisdom and expectations, easily grasped what the apostles brought and easily became strong advocates for Christianity and thereby easily converted the peoples of their land.

The opposition came from Roman culture where the image of a God, of a Savior, would need to be a super warrior type who would conquer – someone like but greater than Caesar.  For them, no grasping of the Mystery of Golgotha was possible.  But for those already in possession of ancient wisdom from the mystery centers, this humiliating death on a cross, this passage of a God through human death to become fully human and its later resurrection meant that a new way to the spirit for mankind was opened, death and karma was overcome, the old mysteries were fulfilled, the new ones had begun.   No longer would they need to pursue their dying path that traversed backwards the path of descent from the spirit.  Now a path of ascent was available.  A new Christian initiation began.

What is a Mystery? What is a Christian Mystery?

MacMillan Dictionary defines Mystery as something that you are not able to understand or explain. Another definition is information about a subject or activity that only some people are allowed to know.

If we go back to 500 BCE and especially if we go further back, the Mysteries played a vital role in all cultures everywhere in the world. Candidates who proved worthy were specially prepared to serve their people through service to their Mystery Center. This preparation involved a transformation administered by the hierophant who oversaw the death of the former person, a 3 day death experience, and then a calling back to new life.  The initiate, who during these 3 days experienced the spiritual world, was so changed that they took on a new name.

In order for Humankind to fully develop Freedom, that is, spiritual freedom in thinking and consciousness, the Mysteries had to die out.  The Dark Age settled in when direct guidance from the spiritual world came to an end – the Twilight of the Gods passed.  Into this darkness came the new Adam, the Logos.

The greatest mystery of all, the Turning Point of Time, occurred on Golgotha as the blood of the Son of Man ran into the earth transforming it forever. With this deed, Humanity could now become the tenth hierarchy.  The New Mysteries had begun.

This web site is devoted to what these new mysteries can become.  We explore the ancient mysteries and what they can tell us about the human being, who we are, and what we are to become.

What do we know of the ancient mysteries?

The Greek Mysteries are the most visible to historians but all cultures had their own Mystery Center(s).

Well known are many the leaders of Greek Mystery Centers such as Pythagoras and Heraclitus.

And well known are the mystery centers Cabeiri on the islands of Lemnos, and Eleusis in west Attica, about 12 miles from Athens.  Mysteries known as Dionysian, Eleusinian, Orphic, and others are well known to historians.  Many an emperor wished to be initiated, thus some of these Mysteries formed a Lesser Mystery appropriate for the unprepared while the original remained secret as the Higher Mystery.  Anyone who attempted to reveal a higher mystery forfeited their life.

A veil of secrecy concealed the manner whereby spiritual needs were satisfied for those within the older civilizations who sought a deeper religious and cognitive life than was offered by the religions of the people. “We are led into the obscurity of enigmatic cults when we inquire into the satisfaction of these needs. Each individual who finds such satisfaction withdraws himself for some time from our observation. We see that the religion of the people cannot give him what his heart seeks. He acknowledges the gods, but he knows that in the ordinary conceptions of the gods the great enigmas of existence are not disclosed. He seeks a wisdom which is carefully guarded by a community of priest-sages. He seeks refuge in this community for his striving soul. If the sages find him mature they lead him step by step to higher insight, in a manner hidden from the eyes of those outside. What happens to him now is concealed from the uninitiated. For a time he appears to be entirely removed from the physical world. He appears to be transported into a secret world. — And when he is returned to the light of day a different, entirely transformed personality stands before us. This personality cannot find words sufficiently sublime to express how significant his experiences were for him. He appears to himself as though he had gone through death and awakened to a new and higher life, not merely figuratively, but in highest reality. And it is clear to him that no one can rightly understand his words who has not had the same experience.

Thus it was with those persons who through the Mysteries were initiated into that secret wisdom, withheld from the people, and which shed light upon the highest questions. This “secret” religion of the elect existed side by side with the religion of the people. So far as history is concerned, its source fades into the obscurity where the origin of people is lost. We find this “secret” religion everywhere among ancient people insofar as we can gain insight concerning them. The sages of these people speak of the Mysteries with the greatest reverence. — What was concealed in them? And what did they reveal to one who was initiated into them?

The enigma becomes still more puzzling when we realize that at the same time the ancients regarded the Mysteries as something dangerous. The way leading to the secrets of existence went through a world of terrors. And woe to him who tried to reach them unworthily. — There was no greater crime than the “betrayal” of these secrets to the uninitiated. The “traitor” was punished with death and confiscation of property. We know that the poet Aeschylus was accused of having brought something from the Mysteries to the stage. He was able to escape death only by fleeing to the altar of Dionysus and producing legal evidence that he was not an initiate.” [Rudolf Steiner, Christianity as Mystical Fact]

Flowing out of the Mystery Centers were stories for the general population to help shape evolution, especially the evolution of consciousness.  These include the stories of Demeter and Persephone, Prometheus and Heracles, Jason and the Argonauts,  Theseus and the Minotaur, and from Egypt: Isis and Osiris.

An entry in Wikipedia claims “Christian Mystery” is used in Eastern Christianity to refer to what the Western Church currently calls Sacraments.  This writer goes on to reveal that the seven sacraments were defined for the Western Church at the Council of Trent that took place 1545-1563.  For the gospel writers, use of the term “mystery” refers to The Mysteries: both the ancient Mysteries and the new Mysteries.  It likely was taught in early Christian circles that the ancient Mysteries led to the Mystery of Golgotha.  These ancient mysteries were necessary to prepare humanity to understand this central mystery for humanity.  Following the Mystery of Golgotha, the New Mysteries of the future could begin – and these, to begin with, were enacted no longer secretly within the Holy of the Holies, but in public during the Mass.  As Christ had initiated Lazarus in public, so now the mysteries came out of hiding.  The sacraments are indeed part of the new mysteries.  But the soul mood of the participants must be prepared to receive.  A mood of sacredness must prevail to receive.  For centuries, it was felt that one should come clean, that is confess all sins, before receiving the Eucharist.

Reevaluating Julian the Apostate

A complex person and emperor of Rome, Julian’s biographers have described him as “a man of unusually complex character: he was ‘the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters’. He was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, and it was his desire to bring the Empire back to its ancient Roman values in order to save it from dissolution. He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the cost of Christianity. His rejection of Christianity in favor of Neo-platonic paganism caused him to be called Julian the Apostate (Ἀποστάτης Apostates, ‘a person who has abandoned their religion, principles’)

“Julian’s personal religion was both pagan and philosophical; he viewed the traditional myths as allegories, in which the ancient gods were aspects of a philosophical divinity. The chief surviving sources are his works To King Helios and To the Mother of the Gods.

“He learned theurgy from Maximus of Ephesus, a student of Iamblichus; his system bears some resemblance to the Neoplatonism of Plotinus; Polymnia Athanassiadi has brought new attention to his relations with Mithraism, although whether he was initiated into it remains debatable; and certain aspects of his thought (such as his reorganization of paganism under High Priests, and his fundamental monotheism) may show Christian influence. Some of these potential sources have not come down to us, and all of them influenced each other, which adds to the difficulties.” For more on Julian visit here on Wikipedia.

Continuing from the historical account from Wikipedia, Julian “restored pagan temples which had been confiscated since Constantine’s time, or simply appropriated by wealthy citizens; he repealed the stipends that Constantine had awarded to Christian bishops, and removed their other privileges, including a right to be consulted on appointments and to act as private courts. He also reversed some favors that had previously been given to Christians.

“On 4 February 362, Julian promulgated an edict to guarantee freedom of religion. This edict proclaimed that all the religions were equal before the law, and that the Roman Empire had to return to its original religious eclecticism, according to which the Roman state did not impose any religion on its provinces.

“In his Tolerance Edict of 362, Julian decreed the reopening of pagan temples, the restitution of confiscated temple properties, and the return from exile of dissident Christian bishops. During Julian’s brief reign from 361-363 CE, his popularity among the people and the army indicated that he might have brought paganism back to the fore of Roman public and private life [keep this point in mind].

“In 363, not long before Julian left Antioch to launch his campaign against Persia, he ordered the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt.  A personal friend of his, Ammianus Marcellinus, wrote this about the effort:

‘Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. Alypius set vigorously to work, and was seconded by the governor of the province; when fearful balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up the attempt.’

The failure to rebuild the Temple has been ascribed to the Galilee earthquake of 363, and to the Jews’ ambivalence about the project. Sabotage is a possibility, as is an accidental fire. Julian’s support of Jews caused Jews to call him ‘Julian the Hellene.’

On 26 June 363, at the indecisive Battle of Samarra, received a wound from a spear that reportedly pierced the lower lobe of his liver, the peritoneum and intestines. Although the wound was not immediately deadly, Julian would die a few days later. In 364, Libanius stated that Julian was assassinated by a Christian who was one of his own soldiers.”

Sassanian relief of the investiture of Ardashir II showing (right to left) Shapur II, Mithra, and Ahura Mazda above a defeated Julian, lying prostrate.

Rudolf Steiner states that “Julian was brought face to face with the deeper implications of the problem of evil and the relation of Christ Jesus to this problem. He hoped to find an answer through initiation into the Persian Mysteries [Mithraic and Zarathustrian] and to return to Europe with the solution. But unfortunately he fell by an assassin’s hand during the Persian campaign. It can be proved historically that this was the work of an adherent of Constantine.  … In the following years the Augustinian principle triumphed – ideas that in any way echoed Manichaeism were forbidden, i.e. the inclusion of material ideas i spiritual thinking. The West therefore was driving to an abstract mode of thinking and in the course of time this mode of thinking permeated the whole of Western Europe. … Julian therefore was engaged in a titanic struggle. He finally attempted, by reviving Manichaeism, to bring about continuity in the evolution of the pagan Mysteries. … That he was doomed to fail was a necessity of the time. And we shall not understand the reason for his failure if we belittle his great achievements, if we fail to see him as a titanic figure, fighting for a realistic understanding of the relations between man and the universe. And it is of paramount importance today to recall these great moments in the historical evolution of the West. For we are living in an age from which we shall not emerge with a healthy outlook unless we make a fresh assessment of the aims of Julian the Apostate. It was not possible in his time – herein lies his great tragedy – to reconcile the old principle of initiation with the real essence of Christianity. Today this has become possible and we must not fail to translate the possibility into reality if the world and mankind are not to suffer evolutionary decline. People must realize the need for regeneration in all spheres of life and above all the crying need to restore communication with the spiritual world.

Coptic icon showing Saint Mercurius killing Julian. 

Julian understood the greatness of the ancient mysteries and had hoped to restore them for the guidance of mankind. He could not fully grasp Christianity as already in his time much was deceived and lost.

The Western Mystical Path

What is mysticism? Simply put, mysticism is the practice or pursuit of a path to the spirit. The term “Mystery” derives from the Greek word “mysterion” (plural mysteria μυστήρια) which means the practice of an experience of a reality surpassing normal human understanding, a spiritual reality perceived as essential to the nature of life. It is implied that the knowledge of a mystery was secret.

What happened in a Mystery Center? One initiated into an ancient Mystery School had to pledge, on their life, never to reveal outside the Mystery Center its rituals or its secrets. An individual who taught at a Mystery School was a mystes, “one who has been initiated”. Each Mystery Center contained a school in which selected students studied and practiced meditation. Eventually a student would be deemed ready for initiation. This happened within the Holy of the Holies, deep within the local religion’s temple. The high priest or hierophant placed the prepared student into a near-death like state. To any uninitiated observer, the student was dead. For three and a third days, the student’s body lay as dead within the Holy of the Holies. Now free of the physical body, the student could experience and explore the spiritual world with the guidance of the hierophant. After the three days, the hierophant would call the student back to his body. The experience was so profound, the newly initiated mystic could no longer go by his or her old name. They had become born again, a new person. For them, their old self had died. Typically their new name came from their experience in the spiritual world. We find this taking on a new name after initiation occurring in all cultures everywhere in the ancient world. Remnants of this continue into our times when, for example, a cardinal is promoted to become the new pope.

When did mysticism arise? No one can adequately answer this question with historical documents because there was only an oral tradition for many centuries. Plato spoke of a time long ago where the center of culture was in Atlantis. Here it may be where the mysteries arose.

A water catastrophe is said to have brought an end to the Atlantean Age – perhaps this is recorded in the Bible as the Flood. Noah and his seven sons rode out the flood in an ark. When their ark landed, the world had greatly changed – the first rainbow was experienced. Rudolf Steiner, through his reading of the Akashic Record (Book of Life in the Bible), has shown that Noah and his sons came to live and restart civilization in India where they were known as Manu and the seven Holy Rishiis. The Atlantean mystery wisdom went with them. Since that time, one stream of civilization has steadily marched westward through Persia, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Europe to America perhaps in search of Atlantis. Each wave of civilization achieved something for the advancement of humanity. It is said the mysteries helped prepare humanity for each cultural wave.

While a Mystery existed within a local religion, an individual could be initiated into several mysteries at the same time. While each local religion had public rituals in which participation was expected (perhaps mandatory) of every member of society, an initiate could wander the world to experience mystery initiation into other mysteries.

When did mysticism die out? All teachings were by word-of-mouth. Nothing was written down until Aristotle sent Alexander out to establish Alexandrias (new cities with large learning libraries) throughout the known world in the 4th century BCE. Aristotle knew that the ancient mysteries were fading away. They could no longer fulfill their mission because crossing the threshold to the spiritual world became increasingly difficult. Taking the place of the mysteries was the evolving intellectual capability of each person. In ancient times, one experienced the gods active in Nature. One might experience the Muse inspiring their poetry or an arch-angel streaming thoughts into their head. Now, the spiritual world had withdrawn so far that initiations within the mystery centers were no longer successful. The level of higher consciousness that could be attained was falling. When the Mysteries faded away during the 4th century, the most popular ones were the Greek Mysteries. So we know these best. The Greek mystery schools include the Eleusinian, the Dionysian, the Orphic Mysteries, and many others. In addition, other mysteries in other geographies persisted up until the time of Christ including the Egyptian Isis, Persian Mithraic, Thracian/Phrygian Sabazius, and Phrygian Cybele.

Does mysticism relate to Christianity? When Christianity arrived, the Mystery Centers were still prevalent, beloved, but fading away. Early Christians believed that Christ was a God who entered at baptism into the body of Jesus and therein remained for three years. The Mystery of Christ is that a God became a human, thereby giving humanity a path forward. A path not back to the divine, but forward to become divine.

Early Christians believed that Christ-Jesus was the fulfillment of the ancient mysteries. They felt that now, the ancient mysteries could indeed fade away as the new mysteries, exemplified by the initiation of Saul on the road to Damascus (note, Saul changes his name to Paul after his initiation) had begun. Aspects of a local religion carried out by its respected high priests, for example presiding over sacrifices, ritual meals, ritual purifications, and initiations in secrecy, became totally changed by Christianity. This lead to the early persecution of Christians because the Roman establishment saw Christianity as subversive to its prevailing traditions and to its respected mysteries. When Christianity successfully took root in a locale, it typically was because their initiates went to the local mystery center and discussed with its initiates how their expectations, the fulfillment of their mysteries had been accomplished in Christ-Jesus.raphael st paul before the proconsul

Early Christian writings indicate that practices from the ancient mystery centers continued within the new faith such as the path towards initiation. There is a letter from Clement of Alexandria found in 1973 by Prof. Morton Smith of Columbia University called Secret Mark. It describes how Mark the Evangelist knew of the common gospel plus a gospel for initiates, “Mark, then, during Peter’s stay in Rome, he wrote of the Lord’s doings, not, however, declaring all [of them], nor yet hinting at the secret [ones], but selecting those he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died as a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge [gnosis]. He composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected. Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and moreover, brought in certain sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven [veils]. Thus, in sum, he prearranged matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, left his composition to the church of Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.”

With twelve apostles (eleven disciples plus Paul), early Christianity had (at least) twelve personalities. As the apostles journeyed out into the world, their brand of Christianity took root in different locations. As Christianity was accepted at a given locale and by its mystery center, it took on the characteristics of the local mystery traditions. Out of these traditions arose great second and third generation Christians. Arius developed a huge following that included the Germanic tribes (the German name “ICH” – “I” in English – was created for them by the Initiate Ulfinas who used the letters Jesus-Christ to form this new German word!). Nestorius brought Christianity eastward all the way to China with missionaries as far as Japan. When Constantine, whose mother was already a Christian, allowed for Christianity to become the state religion, he wanted all these different feuding Christian sects to agree on one Christianity. This noble goal for religious peace through a universal, a Catholic, Christianity resulted in the Nicene Creed. What Constantine did not expect is that later enforcement of this creed resulted in the persecution, torture, and death of millions of mystery-loving Christians by Christians.

Are the Mysteries dead? Nothing with spirit really dies. After Constantine, and after his son, arose Julian as Emperor. Julian had been raised as an Arian Christian but he had witnessed Christians killing his own family for power. In 337 AD when Constantine died, Julian’s cousin, Constantius II, in order to consolidate his position as emperor, massacred most of Julian’s close relatives leaving only Constantius and his brothers Constantine II and Constans I, and their cousins, Julian and Gallus (Julian’s half-brother), as the surviving males related to Emperor Constantine. Julian received an excellent education learning theurgy and Neo-Platonism from Maximus of Ephesus. Ephesus is where the Temple of Artemis was burned in 356 BC (same day as Alexander’s birth) by Herostratus who sought fame. Ephesus is also where St. Paul lived and was imprisoned from 52–54 AD and where John the Evangelist lived and wrote circa 90-100 AD. In 354, Julian wrote a treatise Against the Galileans where he states, Christians were fanatics and cheerfully massacred heretics. By contrast the Greeks were mild and forbearing; they were superior in wisdom and intelligence. Christianity has achieved little or nothing in the fields of science, astronomy, arithmetic and music. The achievements of Plato, Socrates, Aristides, Thales, Lycurgus, Agesilaus and Archedemus, the Sibyls, the Delphic Oracle and the pagan Mysteries surpassed anything that Christianity has to offer.

“On 4 February 362, Julian promulgated an edict to guarantee freedom of religion. This edict proclaimed that all the religions were equal before the law, and that the Roman Empire had to return to its original religious eclecticism, according to which the Roman state did not impose any religion on its provinces.

“In his Tolerance Edict of 362, Julian decreed the reopening of pagan temples, the restitution of confiscated temple properties, and the return from exile of dissident Christian bishops. During Julian’s brief reign from 361-363 CE, his popularity among the people and the army indicated that he might have brought paganism back to the fore of Roman public and private life [keep this point in mind].

On 26 June 363, at the indecisive Battle of Samarra in Persia, Julian was stabbed by a spear. In 364, Libanius stated that Julian was assassinated by a Christian who was one of his own soldiers.” Rudolf Steiner states that “Julian was brought face to face with the deeper implications of the problem of evil and the relation of Christ Jesus to this problem. He hoped to find an answer through initiation into the Persian Mysteries [Mithraic and Zarathustrian] and to return to Europe with the solution. But unfortunately he fell by an assassin’s hand during the Persian campaign. It can be proved historically that this was the work of an adherent of Constantine. … In the following years the Augustinian principle [of blind faith in the Authority of the Church] triumphed – ideas that in any way echoed Manichaeism [a Christian sect founded by Mani] were forbidden, i.e. the inclusion of material ideas into spiritual thinking. The West therefore was driving to an abstract mode of thinking and in the course of time this mode of thinking permeated the whole of Western Europe.

“Julian therefore was engaged in a titanic struggle. He finally attempted, by reviving Manichaeism, to bring about continuity in the evolution of the pagan Mysteries. … That he was doomed to fail was a necessity of the time. And we shall not understand the reason for his failure if we belittle his great achievements, if we fail to see him as a titanic figure, fighting for a realistic understanding of the relations between man and the universe. And it is of paramount importance today to recall these great moments in the historical evolution of the West. For we are living in an age from which we shall not emerge with a healthy outlook unless we make a fresh assessment of the aims of Julian the Apostate. It was not possible in his time – herein lies his great tragedy – to reconcile the old principle of initiation with the real essence of Christianity. Today this has become possible and we must not fail to translate the possibility into reality if the world and mankind are not to suffer evolutionary decline. People must realize the need for regeneration in all spheres of life and above all the crying need to restore communication with the spiritual world.” [i]

A few years following Julian came Emperor Theodosius from 379 to 395 who set to work to totally destroy the remaining mystery centers and all pagan learning centers within Roman rule believing that the old mysteries worked against Christianity. From this time through Emperor Justinian ‘s reign 527 to 565, soldiers and mobs destroyed books, centers, shrines, and the “pagan” people associated. To survive, the Mysteries went underground only to surface from time to time in non-violent Christian groups such as the Bogomils, the Cathars, and the Knights Templar.

ayatollah khomeniThe Mysteries Today. In 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini called America the Great Satan. Perhaps in his spiritual insights he could see America’s destiny with the Prince of Darkness. America was founded as a Holy Experiment largely by Freemasons but also by other mystical groups. Here, with peoples from all over the world, a land was prepared for the future incarnation of the Prince of Darkness, called Ahriman in Persian lore. One can bemoan such a burden, but it is with great wisdom that such a place could be so prepared that it would be capable of confronting such a powerful spiritual being. America is deemed worthy to take on such a difficult task for she is wrest something from this being that will be important for the further development of Mankind. The new mysteries are working towards such a noble goal.

Conclusion. The Mysteries, as we saw, were fading at the time of Alexander. 666 years later, under severe persecution, they went underground . They spring up from century to century in various groups who try to demonstrate the true life of a Christian. Such groups sacrifice themselves for the future. The Cathars were brutally extinguished but their treasure survived, the child who would become Christian Rosenkruetz, founder of the Rosicrucians. These all point back to the greatest mystery of all, namely the Mystery of Golgotha when a God experienced Death and thus fully became Human, thereby changing forever our world. How can Man find the Christ today? This is the mystery of our times.

Additional Material. Augustine (345–410 AD) was a Manichaean for ten years but he lost faith with Manichaeism when Faustus, a leader of the sect, failed to resolve his doubts. Abandoning Manichaeism (see Confessions, Books IV and V), Augustine went to Rome where St. Ambrose, in 386, opened his eyes to the authority of the Church. Augustine then directed his literary work against the Manichaeans. For him, the lineage of the Church gave it authority to know the Scriptures from whence one’s faith originated. His dictum, “Better a man’s body be destroyed than his soul” leads to Crusades and Inquisitions. Augustine is credited as founder of Western monasticism.

[i] Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, lecture 7, 19Apr1917, GA 175

How I Became So Interested in How Christianity Spread So Easily in the World

My ancestors were often Congregational ministers. I even have roots that go to the Mayflower. This background led me, in my early teens, to wonder how it was that Christianity spread so easily if what spread is the same as what one meets in churches today.

To get a handle on this question, I had to go way back to study the Early Christians. It is indeed difficult to do so because many of the early writings were destroyed or altered by the proto-orthodox zealots and heresy hunters.  Serious theological changes came already in the 3rd century and in the next century with Constantine’s effort for unity and the Ecumenical Councils that followed.The leading “mysteries” (clues) to find the true Christianity that I see include:
  • the whole point of Christianity is the three years from baptism to ascension with the event on Golgotha followed by the resurrection, “if He had not risen, then our faith is in vain.”
  • something magnificent happened at the baptism
  • something important also happened at 12 in the temple
  • the birth of Jesus in Luke and the birth of Jesus in Matthew are different stories – different families, different hometowns, etc.
  • the expectation of a Savior existed in many religions
  • the concept of reincarnation (and karma) was common but fading
These led me to conclude:
  • Jesus (in Matthew) at birth was a man – a very significant man who the Magi (Zoroastrian Initiates) could “see” was incarnating (they accepted reincarnation)
  • Jesus (in Luke) is deeply connected to Adam – perhaps a pre-Fall purity (no karma)
  • Matthew Jesus was born first, slaughter of the innocents happened, then Luke Jesus born
  • These two are “combined” at 12 (when Luke Jesus was 12) in the Temple (see the lecture on Leonardo da Vinci in the website here)
  • This perfect vehicle for the Logos is offered to Him at the Baptism
  • Now this being is Jesus-Christ
  • In this being the Logos FULLY becomes a human being on the cross, on Golgotha
  • Of the beings of the Heavenly Hierarchies, this is the first and only to experience Death
  • The Logos overcomes Death and resurrects with a body whose physical matter is fully spiritualized (called Atma in Vedic traditions) so that one incarnated in a physical body can sense it
  • Paul calls the resurrected Jesus-Christ, the new Adam for this event opened the future for Humanity; the descent was over; the ascent could begin – and this was possible because the Logos, a God, became a Son of Man
  • The Logos, whose blood flowed into the Earth, resides now and forever more with the Earth and is joined with its destiny; at first and till now in the periphery of the Earth working inwardly (one could claim that the Logos was the Sun God, Ahura Mazdao, that Zarathrustra and others including the Jewish Prophets foresaw as coming)
  • To Moses, as the burning bush, He says “I am The I-am” (it is a mistranslation that says “I am that I am”); one should contemplate this, what is an I-am?  What is THE I-am? In tribal times, did people realize their core being as people do today as something fully independent, as an I-am? Or was that just coming to one’s awake consciousness in the time of Moses?
  • The Three Years fulfilled the Ancient Mysteries and the Law – this enabled the spread of Christianity through the apostles who brought this realization to the initiates of the dying mystery centers (e.g. Delphi, Eleusia) who grasped this and joined with their pupils (Paul establishes the Christian Mysteries at the Aeropagite’s School of Athens)
  • The so-called Second Coming will happen “in the clouds” (I sense this is happening in our times) in a realm we, in our materialism, cannot normally perceive – a realm where Life’s formative forces exist – but a realm where one today can perceive if the organs of higher perception are developed
  • Christian initiation has occurred throughout the past 2 millennium – we find this in the Perfects of the Cathars’ Elect, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians – even the Mass itself has vestiges of initiation ceremony
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