Esoteric Christianity

Esoteric Christianity (linked with the Hermetic Corpus since the Renaissance) is an ensemble of Christian theology which proposes that some spiritual doctrines of Christianity can only be understood by those who have undergone certain rites (such as baptism) within the religion. In mainstream Christianity, there is a similar idea that faith is the only means by which a true understanding of God can be gained.[1] The term esoteric was coined in the 17th century and derives from the Greek ἐσωτερικός (esôterikos, "inner").[2]

These spiritual currents share some common denominators, such as heterodox or heretical Christian theology; the canonical gospels, various apocalyptic literature, and some New Testament apocrypha as sacred texts; and disciplina arcani, a supposed oral tradition from the Twelve Apostles containing esoteric teachings of Jesus the Christ.[3]

Templeofrosycross
The Temple of the Rose Cross, Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens, 1618.
Zodiac mtskheta
A 17th-century fresco from the Cathedral of Living Pillar in Georgia depicting Jesus within the Zodiac circle.

Mysticism

The word "mysticism" is derived from the Greek μυω, meaning "to conceal",[4] and its derivative μυστικός, mystikos, meaning 'an initiate'. In the Hellenistic world, 'mystical' referred to "secret" religious rituals.[4] The use of the word lacked any direct references to the transcendental.[5] A "mystikos" was an initiate of a mystery religion.

Theologians give the name mystery to revealed truths that surpass the powers of natural reason,[6] so, in a narrow sense, the Mystery is a truth that transcends the created intellect.

Ancient roots

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Greek mysticism influenced many early church theologians such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen.

Some modern scholars believe that in the early stages of non-Gnostic Christianity, a nucleus of oral teachings were inherited from Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism. In the 4th century, it was believed to form the basis of a secret oral tradition which came to be called disciplina arcani. The mainstream theologians, however, believe that it contained only liturgical details and certain other traditions which remain a part of some branches of mainstream Christianity.[3][7][8] Important influences on Esoteric Christianity are the Christian theologians Clement of Alexandria and Origen, the leading figures of the Catechetical School of Alexandria.[9]

Reincarnation was accepted by most of Gnostic Christian sects such as Valentinianism and Basilidians, but denied by the proto-orthodox one. While hypothetically considering a complex multiple-world transmigration scheme in De Principiis, Origen denies reincarnation in unmistakable terms in his work Against Celsus and elsewhere.[10][11]

Despite this apparent contradiction, most modern Esoteric Christian movements refer to Origen's writings (along with other Church Fathers and biblical passages[12]) to validate these ideas as part of the Esoteric Christian tradition outside of the Gnostic schools, who were later considered heretical in the 3rd century.[13]

Scholar Jan Shipps describes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as having esoteric elements.[14]

See also

References

  1. ^ Patte, Daniel. The Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity. Ed. Daniel Patte. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 377.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Compact Edition, Volume 1, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 894.)
  3. ^ a b G.G. Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism, 2005.
  4. ^ a b Gellman, Jerome, "Mysticism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  5. ^ Parsons, William Barclay (2011), Teaching Mysticism, Oxford University Press, p. 3
  6. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911.
  7. ^ Frommann, De Disciplina Arcani in vetere Ecclesia christiana obticuisse fertur, Jena 1833.
  8. ^ Edwin Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, London: Williams and Norgate, 1907, Lecture X.
  9. ^ Jean Daniélou, Origen, translated by Walter Mitchell, 1955.
  10. ^ Catholic Answers, Quotes by Church Fathers Against Reincarnation Archived June 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, 2004.
  11. ^ John S. Uebersax, Early Christianity and Reincarnation: Modern Misrepresentation of Quotes by Origen, 2006.
  12. ^ See Reincarnation and Christianity
  13. ^ Archeosofica, Articles on Esoteric Christianity Archived 2007-11-02 at the Wayback Machine (classical authors)
  14. ^ Shipps, Jan. The Mormons: Looking Forward and Outward. Christian Century, August 16-23, 1978, pp. 761-766.

Further reading

  • Anonymous (1985). Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism. New York, NY: Tarcher/Penguin. ISBN 978-1-5854-2161-9
  • Besant, Annie (2001). Esoteric Christianity or the Lesser Mysteries. City: Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 978-1-4021-0029-1.
  • Brown, Coleston (2007). Magical Christianity: The Power of Symbols for Spiritual Renewal.Wheaton, IL: Quest Books. ISBN 978-0-8356-0855-8
  • Duncan, Anthony (1972, 1996). The Lord of the Dance: An Essay in Mysticism. Sun Chalice Books. ISBN 978-0-9650-8395-9
  • Knight, Gareth (1975, 2010). Experience of the Inner Worlds. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire: Skylight Press. ISBN 978-1-9080-1103-9
  • Knight, Gareth (2011). A History of White Magic. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire: Skylight Press. ISBN 978-1-9080-1104-6
  • Powell, Robert. (2007). The Sophia Teachings: The Emergence of the Divine Feminine in Our Time. Aurora, CO: Lindisfarne Books. ISBN 978-1-5842-0048-2
  • Rittelmeyer, Friedrich (Author), Mitchell, M.L. (Translator) (2004). Meditation: Letters on the Guidance of the Inner Life 1932. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-4179-7983-7
  • Smoley, Richard (2002). Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition.Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 978-1-5706-2810-8
  • Steiner, Rudolf (1997). Christianity As Mystical Fact And The Mysteries Of Antiquity. Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophic Press. ISBN 978-0-8801-0436-4

External links

Behmenism

Behmenism, also Behemenism and similar, is the English-language designation for a 17th-century European Christian movement based on the teachings of German mystic and theosopher Jakob Böhme (1575-1624). The term was not usually applied by followers of Böhme's theosophy to themselves, but rather was used by some opponents of Böhme's thought as a polemical term. The origins of the term date back to the German literature of the 1620s, when opponents of Böhme's thought, such as the Thuringian antinomian Esajas Stiefel, the Lutheran theologian Peter Widmann and others denounced the writings of Böhme and the Böhmisten. When his writings began to appear in England in the 1640s, Böhme's surname was irretrievably corrupted to the form "Behmen" or "Behemen", whence the term "Behmenism" developed. A follower of Böhme's theosophy is a "Behmenist".

Body of resurrection

Body of Resurrection is a typical term of Esoteric Christianity, used to indicate a spiritual body associated with a special enlightenment or experience.

Christian Rosenkreuz

Christian Rosenkreuz (also spelled Rosenkreutz and Christian Rose Cross) is the legendary, possibly allegorical, founder of the Rosicrucian Order (Order of the Rose Cross). He is presented in three manifestos that were published early in the 17th century. These were:

Fama Fraternitatis (published 1614 in Kassel, Germany) This manifesto introduced the founder, "Frater C.R.C."

Confessio Fraternitatis (published 1615 in Kassel, Germany)

The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (published 1616 in Strasbourg, Germany).

Christian views on astrology

Astrology had small amounts of support in early Christianity, but support waned during the Middle Ages. Support for it grew again in the West during the Renaissance.

Disciplina arcani

Disciplina arcani (Latin for "Discipline of the Secret" or "Discipline of the Arcane") is the custom that prevailed in the 4th and 5th centuries of Early Christianity, whereby knowledge of the more intimate doctrines of the Christian religion was carefully kept from non-Christians and even from those who were undergoing instruction in the faith so that they may progressively learn the teachings of the faith and not fall to heresy due to simplistic misunderstandings (hence, doctrines were kept from catechumens; Christian converts who had not yet been baptized).

Etheric body

The etheric body, ether-body, æther body, a name given by neo-Theosophy to a vital body or subtle body propounded in esoteric philosophies as the first or lowest layer in the "human energy field" or aura. It is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body, to sustain it and connect it with "higher" bodies.

The English term "etheric" in this context seems to derive from the Theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky, but its use was formalised by C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant due to the elimination of Hindu terminology from the system of seven planes and bodies. (Adyar School of Theosophy).

The term gained some general popularity after the 1914-18 war, Walter John Kilner having adopted it for a layer of the "human atmosphere" which, as he claimed in a popular book, could be rendered visible to the naked eye by means of certain exercises.The classical element Aether of Platonic and Aristotlean physics continued in Victorian scientific proposals of a Luminiferous ether as well as the cognate chemical substance ether. According to Theosophists and Alice Bailey the etheric body inhabits an etheric plane which corresponds to the four higher subplanes of the physical plane. The intended reference is therefore to some extremely rarefied matter, analogous in usage to the word "spirit" (originally "breath"). In selecting it as the term for a clearly defined concept in an Indian-derived metaphysical system, the Theosophists aligned it with ideas such as the prana-maya-kosha (sheath made of prana, subtle breath or life-force) of Vedantic thought.

In popular use it is often confounded with the related concept of the astral body as for example in the term astral projection - the early Theosophists had called it the "astral double". Others prefer to speak of the "lower and higher astral".

Etheric plane

The etheric plane (see also etheric body) is a term introduced into Theosophy by Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant to represent the subtle part of the lower plane of existence. It represents the fourth [higher] subplane of the physical plane (a hyperplane), the lower three being the states of solid, liquid, and gaseous matter. The idea was later used by authors such as Alice Bailey, Rudolf Steiner, Walter John Kilner and others.

The term aether (also written as "ether") was adopted from ancient Greek philosophy and science into Victorian physics (see Luminiferous aether) and utilised by Madame Blavatsky to correspond to akasha, the fifth element (quintessence) of Hindu metaphysics.

The Greek word aither derives from an Indo-European root aith- ("burn, shine"). Blavatsky also related the idea to the Hindu Prana principle, the vital, life-sustaining force of living beings, present in all natural processes of the universe. Prana was first expounded in the Upanishads, where it is part of the worldly, physical realm, sustaining the body and the mind. Blavatsky also tended to use the word "astral" indiscriminately for these supposed subtle physical phenomena. The esoteric concepts of Adi, the Buddhic plane, the causal plane, and the monadic plane are also related to that of the etheric plane.Leadbeater and Besant (both belonging to the Adyar School of Theosophy) conceived that the etheric plane constituted four higher subplanes of the physical plane. According to the Theosophist Geoffrey A. Farthing, Leadbeater used the term, because of its resonance in the physical sciences, to describe his clairvoyant investigations of sub-atomic physics.

Mental body

The mental body (the mind) is one of the subtle bodies in esoteric philosophies, in some religious teachings and in New Age thought. It is understood as a sort of body made up of thoughts, just as the emotional body consists of emotions and the physical body is made up of matter. In occult understanding, thoughts are not just subjective qualia, but have an existence apart from the associated physical organ, the brain.

Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus the Conductor

L'Église Métropolitaine d'Art de Jésus Conducteur or the Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus the Conductor, alternatively translated as the Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus, Leader (et cetera), was founded by Erik Satie, the French composer and pianist.

Parabola Allegory

The Parabola Allegory is a Rosicrucian allegory, of unknown authorship, dating from the latter part of the seventeenth century. It is sometimes attributed to German alchemist Henricus Madathanus.Bearing many similarities to The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, it is steeped in alchemical imagery. It deals with the journey of initiation of an unknown narrator, who, after many trials, enters the Rose Garden and bears witness to the dissolution and reconstitution of a pair of royal lovers into a King and Queen.

Like The Chymical Wedding, the Parabola Allegory has the haunting quality of a dream. It was taken as the starting point by Viennese psychologist Herbert Silberer for an analysis of Freudian dream interpretation, in his major work Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism, where the Allegory is quoted in full. Silberer interprets the Allegory along Freudian lines then, pointing out the limitations of such an approach, goes on to interpret the narrative along alchemical/mystical lines, placing the story in the context of the Mystery traditions of the world's religions as an allegory of the Unio Mystica.

Peter Deunov

Peter Deunov (Bulgarian: Петър Дънов, IPA: ['pɛtər 'dɤnof]; July 11, 1864 – December 27, 1944), also known by his spiritual name Beinsa Douno (Bulgarian: Беинса Дуно, [bɛinˈsа duˈnɔ]), and often called the Master by his followers, was a Bulgarian philosopher and spiritual teacher who developed a form of Esoteric Christianity known as the Universal White Brotherhood. He is widely known in Bulgaria, where he was voted second by the public in the Great Bulgarians TV show on Bulgarian National Television (2006-2007). Deunov is also featured in Pantev and Gavrilov's The 100 Most Influential Bulgarians in Our History (ranked in 37th place). According to Petrov, Peter Deunov is “the most published Bulgarian author to this day.”

Philadelphians

The Philadelphians, or the Philadelphian Society, were a 17th century English dissenter group. They were organized around John Pordage (1607–1681), an Anglican priest from Bradfield, Berkshire, who had been ejected from his parish in 1655 because of differing views, but then reinstated in 1660 during the English Restoration. Pordage was attracted to the ideas of Jakob Böhme, a Lutheran theosophist and Christian mystic.

Prisca theologia

Prisca theologia ("ancient theology") is the doctrine that asserts that a single, true theology exists, which threads through all religions, and which was anciently given by God to man.

Rays from the Rose Cross

Rays from the Rose Cross is a Christian esoteric magazine established in June 1913 by Max Heindel, author of The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception and founder of The Rosicrucian Fellowship; its original name was Echoes from Mount Ecclesia. It is issued bimonthly by The Rosicrucian Fellowship in the United States. Its publication has stopped in May/April 2004.

It contains articles on themes as Esoteric Christianity, Astrology, Philosophy, History, Science, Health, Nutrition, Social issues, etc.

Rosicrucian Fellowship

The Rosicrucian Fellowship (TRF) ("An International Association of Christian Mystics") was founded in 1909 by Max Heindel with the aim of heralding the Aquarian Age and promulgating "the true Philosophy" of the Rosicrucians. It claims to present Esoteric Christian mysteries or esoteric knowledge, alluded to in Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10, to establish a meeting ground for art, religion, and science and to prepare the individual through harmonious development of the mind and the heart for selfless service of humanity.The Rosicrucian Fellowship conducts Spiritual Healing Services and offers correspondence courses in esoteric Christianity, philosophy, "spiritual astrology" and Bible interpretation. Its headquarters are located on Mount Ecclesia in Oceanside, California, and its students are found throughout the world organized in centers and study groups. Its declared mission is to promulgate a scientific method of development suited particularly to the Western people whereby the "Soul body" may be wrought, so that humanity may hasten the Second Coming.

Sister Catherine Treatise

The Sister Catherine Treatise (German: Daz ist Swester Katrei Meister Eckehartes Tohter von Straezburc) is a work of Medieval Christian mysticism seen as representative of the Heresy of the Free Spirit of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Europe. Wrongly attributed to Christian mystic Meister Eckhart it nevertheless shows the influence of his ideas (as evinced by the full German title), or at least the ideas which he was accused or attributed as having had by the Inquisition.

The Pilgrimage

The Pilgrimage (Portuguese: O Diário de Um Mago, "Diary of a Mage") is a 1987 novel by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. It is a recollection of Paulo's experiences as he made his way across northern Spain on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The novel serves as part adventure story, part guide to self-discovery.

Theurgy

Theurgy (; from Ancient Greek: θεουργία, theourgía) describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more deities, especially with the goal of achieving henosis (uniting with the divine) and perfecting oneself.

Universal White Brotherhood

The Universal White Brotherhood is a New Age-oriented new religious movement founded in Bulgaria in the early 20th century by Peter Deunov and established in France in 1937 by Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov (1900–1986), one of his followers.

Their teachings are also known as " Dunovism", after the founder. The group proposes a Christian esoterism characterized by a number of practices, including prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga of nutrition and paneurhythmy.A person can be both member of the group and of another religion.In France, the group achieved notability in the media in 1971. It has two centers located in Sèvres and Fréjus and 2,000 followers in France, and is present in many countries, including Canada, Switzerland and Belgium. The 1995 and 1999 reports established by the Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France, as well as the 1997 reports issued by the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission in Belgium listed the group as a cult.The main criticisms by anti-cult associations are the alleged harmful effects of the doctrine on the psyche of some followers, the diet that can lead to nutritional deficiencies, and the authoritarian nature of education.

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