After the genocides of the Essenes in 68AD, the 1st ~ 4th centuries saw the Essene go underground and reform as gnostic. This religion was so named because it depended upon personal, spiritual revelation, the gnosis - the knowledge of God.
Gnosis simply means knowledge, especially of divine mysteries, pointing the mystical desire of the gnostics to expand their consciousness beyond ordinary perception and to see beyond the veil. This enables access to the divine realm. And according to some scholars, the mystical path by which the gnostics attained illumination is mapped and teachable. This means anyone can follow this path, whereas in the past, whereas in the past, ascending to God's throne and seeing his face was prohibited. Thanks to the Essenes, a shift had happened. The gnostics, practicing what they called Hekhalot and Merkabah teachings began began to emphasize the practice of ascension and seeing God.
Through the choices one makes in their life, their spiritual practices, mystical techniques, personal deeds, and inner awareness, one can initiate an encounter with an angel and journey to heaven. We can get on our boat and voyage out of this world to the Merkabah, the chamber of God, the heaven of heavens, said the gnostics.
In preparation fo this ascension, the gnostics embarked on a process of self-purification, aimed at perfecting oneself and gaining the higher spiritual vibrations of purity, holiness wholeness, and righteousness. Practices like yoga, fast, diets, cleansing rituals, singing songs, chanting of hymns, incantations, and repeating the divine neme, active visualization, medication, were all used to expand the perception of the gnostic adept.
The effect of these practices included ecstatic trance, a sense of the soul, dream vision hallucination, crossing into other dimensions, and ultimately, the dissolution of the human nto light. All of the gnostic spiritual practices were aimed at preparing the mystic to enter the celestial chaber of God, or the Merkabah throne, in an encounter with the Mighty One.
After passing through seven heavens, the mysstic must penetrate the seven resplendent palaces of the seven heaven itself before arriving at the throne of glory, said Ezekiel. And once there, the traveler encounters God on his throne.
The visionary was taught to expect God to be wearing a garment of light. The vision of it includes a mystical experience that transforms the body of the visionary into light. The gnostics believed in a divine spark in man, deriving from the eternal divine realm, fallen into this world of matter and fate and needing to be awakened by a divine counterpart.
They upheld the serpent of Eden as a Savior figure who sought to provide humanity with key knowledge to awaken. As may be expected, the traditional church fathers saw gnosticism as an anti-Christian heresy. Simply put, however, gnosticism is the earliest form of Christianity. The primitive Christiani who preceded the historic Christians, were all gnostics. It was Roman Catholicism that labeled them heretics in an effort ot consolidate its growing power.
In 1945, the gnostic Gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. These astonished manuscripts contained the secret teachings of Jesus and the earliest Christians. Whereas orthodox forms of Christianity found their dogmas and doctrines almost exclusively upon the outer teachings Jesus gave during his brief earthly life and missions. Gnostic Christianity focuses primarily upon the inner and secret teachings Jesus gave after the Resurrection. That is, Jesus appears to the disciples in his light body after his ascension. And gnostics thought of themselves as the true interpreters of these secret teachings of Jesus.
The Nag Hammadi texts are Coptic, meaning they are Egyptian Christian examples of these texts. Until 1945, most of what we know about the gnostics came form they who persecuted them. The gnostics were condemned as heretics by the bishops of the early Christian church because they would not accept the canon of the New Testament or the apostolic creed or the authority of the new church. But now, the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts, we learn who the gnostics truly were in their own words,.
Among several highly utilized but previously unknown gnostic text was the Gospel of Thomas, which contained 114 saying attributed to Jesus. Scholars believe it was written during the second half of the 1st century AD. And it's claimed in the Gospel of Thomas that the sayings contained within this gospel contain the secret of salvation. Saying one says, "Whoever finds the interpretation of the sayings will not experience death.
The Gospel of Thomas begins with the premise that our individual spirit once lived in the awe, the spiritual universe of divine beings. Then, through some primal catastrophe, the fall of humanity, some human spirits imprisoned in flesh and blood human bodies and became trapped in the material world, blind to their true source. But Jesus comes along and saves them revealing to them the truth of who the are -- divine light beings who belong to another world. This realization frees them from the garments of their material bodies and puts them on the way to acquiring their robe of light.
The doctrine of the soul's ascent through heavenly spheres was a key teaching of gnosticism. The ascension to Heaven is equivalent to a spiritual resurrection. And the fulfillment of the Essene's mission, Jesus cleared the way. In the gnostic ascension teachings, strange being called Archons barred the way to the seven heavens.
Archon is a Greek word that means "ruler", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem αρχ-, meaning "to be first, to rule". Derived from the same root as words such as monarch and hierarchy.- Wikipedia
And some maintain the Archons sought to take human souls. But we don't worry about them because the gnostics had a remedy. We could perfect ourselves and put on a garment of perfect light.
In the gospel of Philip, a 2nd-century gnostic work, transformation through gnosis not only allowed the ascent of the soul but it also made us invisible to the Archons.
Philip says that "Not only they be unable to the detain the perfect man, but they will not be able to see him, if they see him they will detain him.
There is no other way for a person to acquire this quality except by puttingon the perfect light and he too becoming a perfect light."
The mysteries of exactly how to become a perfect light being formed the backbone of the Essene revelation that was adopted into the gnostic religion, especially a branch of it called Manichaeism.
This Chinese painting depicts Jesus as a Manichaen prophet. The figure can be identified as a representation of Christ by the gold cross that sits on the red lotus pedestal. A number of Manichean hymns are addressed not to the historical Jesus, called Jesus the Messiah, but to the light messenger Jesus, referred to as Jesus the Splendor, a magnificent, shining being who displays the robe of light. The aim of Manichaeans is to attain the light body, they called the beaming garment.
Most people may have never heard of Manichaeism or its founder, Mani, a Babylonian prophet who has been called the last gnostic.
Mani was born in Persia in 216 AD. He is believed to have manifested the rainbow light body. Mani's father joined the Elkesaites, a white-robed Gnostic sect that appeared around 100 AD in Syria.
The Elkesaites were founded by Christians who believed their baptisms connected them with Elkhasai, meaning the hidden power of God that originated with the Essenes.
At the age of 24, Mani traveled to India, following in the footsteps of the apostle Thomas, He was most certainly familiar with the story of Thomas.
After his time in India, Mani settled in Iran and began assembling a community of adepts.
The gnostics believed that Jesus was an instrument of divine power, referred to as the cosmic Christ. Mani learned from the Elkesaites (ancient Jewish Christians), his father's tribe that Jesus was a reincarnating prophet called the Illuminator.
Some of them saw Jesus as a reincarnation of Zarathustra or Zoroaster, the Iranian spiritual adept who taught self realization somewhat between 2,000 and 700 BC.
Zoroaster's ministry began when he experienced a revelation at age 30. While sitting on the riverbank, he saw a shining being, who revealed himself as Vohu Manah, meaning good purpose, and taught him about Ahura Mazda, the wise spirit, and five other radiant figures called Kumaras.
This is very intersting, as Kumaras was also a term/title applied to Melchizedek.
Ahura Mazda is portrayed riding in a winged ring called the Faravahar.
In present-day Zoroastrianism, the Faravahar is said to be a reminder of one's purpose or mission in life, which is to live in such a way that the soul pogresses towards Frashokereti, or perfect union with Ahura Mazda.
Frashokereti is the Avestan language (corresponding to Middle Persian) for the Zoroastrian doctrine of a final renovation of the universe, when evil will be destroyed, and everything else will be then in perfect unity with God (Ahura Mazda).
Mani was also believed to be the reincarnation of Lao Tzu, the Taoist maste and ascension keeper who lived around 500 BC, during the time when the ascension teachings were in full flow in Babylon. In this life he would become the Buddha of Light.
It was Lao Tzu who taught the practice of heavenly ascension. Taoists believe the ability to ascend to heaven, ideally in borad daylight, accompanied by one's household, demonstrated one's achievement of the most exalted state of transcendence and 'shen'. Shen is very close to ’saiyon’ and ’essen’, or Essene. It's actually a Chinese word for an enlightened person (
仙人）translatable in English as spiritually immortal, transcendent, superhuman being. Chinese 'shen' also translate as Sanskrit 'rishi', 'sage' in the Vedas.
The Essenes taught the secrets of Raz, or the veil. 'Raz' is also rooted in rishi. The Essenes and Mani would agree with Lao Tzu when he described the perfect man as one who could ascend to the loftiest height, enter water and not get wet, or enter fire and not get burned. In fact, Taoism's perfect man governs his inner self and embraces his destiny. Mani was claimed to be the latest incarnation of Lao Tzu, the new illuminator.
Manichaeism fused early Christianity and gnosticism and spread from Iran to Egypt,Iraq and throughout the Middle East
Gaia TV The Gnostic Revelation
S1, Ep7 (Nov. 4, 2019)
Author & Investigative Mythologist