Esoteric Christianity

Dwight Ott

Traditional Christianity, as it has existed for most of the past 2,000 years, has been largely a socio-political, cultural phenomenon concerned mainly with collective belief and thought. However, there has been, from the beginning, an inner teaching that has been ignored and rejected by organized church Christianity. It is this inner (or higher) message that carries the ageless, universal truth of the teaching of Jesus Christ. It is contained in the Gospels but is not in the literal words. The Teacher himself, though literate, chose not to leave one written word by his own hand, saying that the letter kills. He left to others the inevitable task of trying to record in words what cannot be expressed directly, but can only be received indirectly by way of parable or higher psychological thinking. The written account is a step down from the actual living message, but if one has the key, it can be received.

Church Christianity was formed mainly through political influences, starting with the heroic, inspiring efforts of Paul to create a system that would spread throughout the Roman world, based on the transforming teachings of Jesus, but to a certain degree accommodating the times, and various cultures. Paul's efforts were directed more toward organizing and maintaining churches than to teaching the original message of individual transformation (salvation). He worked to create a collective authority with exclusive power to disseminate the teaching and to control every aspect of belief and behavior of its members. The teaching of Paul was a vast departure from the teaching of Jesus, not only in principle, but in practice.

When the Roman emperor Constantine adopted the growing and powerful new religion as a way of solidifying his political power, he established an organization patterned on Roman government. He rejected all aspects of teaching that did not suit his purposes, and banned all writings, views, individuals, and groups, not conforming to his certified structure. He laid a rigid groundwork for all subsequent Christian thought. Even at the Protestant Reformation over 1000 years later, though the new sects changed the form of church government and allowed for certain variations in interpretation, the basic dogma remained as it was developed by the early church in Rome. This continues in institutional churches of today, whether Orthodox or Protestant.

Esoteric Christianity is concerned with the personal transformation (re-birth), possible for a person, which is taught by the life and message of Jesus Christ. It is the teaching that humanity is in an incomplete, low, dark state of being, and that an individual has the potential to become a whole, real being who lives on a higher conscious level (called "the Kingdom of Heaven.") In this state, one is no longer imprisoned by the body or personality, or by time, but realizes a new life. This is a new human, - the offspring (son) of man, and at the same time, the child (son) of God. The transformation is not accomplished by following a social prescription, but only by entering the narrow gate of personal, individual experience of the powerful conversion exemplified by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Church Christianity fosters a view of Jesus that is little different from cults of personality. When Jesus said, "No man can come to the Father but through me," it is misunderstood as an exclusive human statement. He was speaking as the universal spiritual aspect of the eternal Christ. When he said," I am the truth, the life, the way", he was claiming identity with all truth, and real life, and the way to the Higher, not as a human personality, but as the representative of God. When he said, "Before Abraham was, I am," he was not speaking as the human Jesus, but as the eternal spirit of Christ. Jesus saw himself as a new type of human (the Son of Man), but also, he consciously accepted the identity of Christ (the Son of God).

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," is the essence of Christian moral teaching and has many levels of meaning. It is important to start with "Thou", and to not take for granted that one understands who is meant. Ordinary man is a multiple, changing being who has acquired a personality that is not constant, reliable, or true. He has False Personality who only loves itself. This is the state of "carnal man," who is limited to self-love, self-importance, self-righteousness, and other small self-emotions. In order to be able to change from this low state, one must experience "metanoia," (a Greek word used in the Gospels meaning change of mind. It is wrongly translated as "repent "). This is not a change that happens automatically to everyone. On the contrary, it starts with a personal glimpse of a higher possibility that may or may not lead one to make conscious effort toward a process of change to a "Thou" who is capable of love of true self, of others, and of God. Ordinary people love their opinion of themselves, love others who flatter or agree with their opinion, and love only their opinion of a God they suppose they worship. What they love can turn to negativity, dislike, suspicion, jealousy, violence, or hate in a moment. Real love is a positive emotion which ordinary humanity lacks and never becomes negative. Positive emotions have no opposite and are either present or absent. The word "love" is used in the Gospels as conscious love (agape in Greek), not mechanical or conditional love. Imagination, pretense, desire, possessiveness, and sentimentality, or combinations of these things, make up what goes by the name of love in ordinary life. One who lives in the false self-image that serves small self-emotions cannot experience real love. Jesus was speaking to those capable of love, - to those who have understanding, - to those in the kingdom. A person of the world, a once-born person, cannot understand what love of God, or others, is. Such a person looks down on others if they are different in any way from what pleases their own False Personality.

Anyone who reads the Gospels with any degree of understanding recognizes without doubt that they are about something completely different than ordinary cultural ideas. However, people read the Gospels literally and mechanically and do not understand what they read. They read how Jesus continually condemned the Pharisees and other worldly falseness, but they do not see that it applies to them, - to their own inner Pharisee, always pretending to be something it is not. They also read through the film of inherited conditioning that has thickened for two millennia of church interpretation and indoctrination.

What does "love of neighbor" mean? Who is one's neighbor? In Jesus' answer to this, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, he makes clear that it is not the priest or Levite who passed the assaulted man on the road. They were not neighbors. But the foreigner who showed mercy proved to be a neighbor. In esoteric language it has to do with those near you in being, -- in understanding. Not everyone is a neighbor, but followers of Christ are told to show mercy and prove to be a neighbor to others. When two or more neighbors get together in the spirit of Love, they are the body of Christ (the Church).

All parables in the Gospels contain layers of meaning, which are gradually revealed as one changes in understanding and in being. Ordinarily, people read only on a mechanical (literal) level and imagine that they understand all that is there. This is the letter that kills, - not the spirit that gives life. Jesus' message is not contained in the words he spoke or in the later words written in the gospels. These only point to the meaning, the understanding, which is above the literal, beyond language...that can only be received by those who have ears and eyes.

Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is available immediately and that it is within the person. It is not "here nor there" as a literal place. If the word "kingdom" is updated to modern usage it means "state" (not a literal state, but a psychological or spiritual state). Heaven is perfect order. So the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus taught indicates a higher state of conscious order, which is not to be entered after death, but during life. It cannot be entered by calling, "Lord, Lord," or by tradition. Few people ever see or hear beyond the conditioned structure of their cultural system. Still, the teaching is there, in the Gospels, beyond the words, - beyond historical and traditional interpretation and prejudice, - available only to those who seek for it from an inner need for truth and light.

Esoteric Christianity is not exclusive of truth in other cultures and religions. The Truth, (Christ) exists universally within all things. The Life, (Christ) conquers death and dispels the darkness of ignorance, partiality, vanity, and pride. The Way, (Christ) is transformation from a low state of being to what one is in truth.

Largely ignored by church teaching is the sevenfold nature of all things, spoken of many times in scripture, from the seven days of creation to the seven seals of Revelation. This is the law of transformation, - of creation.

7. understanding (comprehension)
6. knowledge (science and conscience) {-- KINGDOM
5. receptivity (directed attention)

4. intellect (conditioned thought / metanoia) { -- CHANGE

3. emotion (automatic feeling)
2. senses (physical senses) { -- ORDINARY HUMANITY
1. superstition (imagination)

The Bible, or anything else, can be approached through any of the seven levels. It is only with metanoia, - a change from automatic, conditioned thinking, to conscious thought, that an entrance into the higher levels (the Kingdom of Heaven) can be made. John the Baptist was at the pivotal point, but had not entered. Jesus said John was the greatest of once-born men, but that the least in the kingdom was greater. So this state has levels. Levels 1, 2, and 3 are those of ordinary humans. Level 4 is the dividing line between unconscious, conditioned thinking and the birth of a new process of thought that is conscious. Levels 5, 6, and 7 are the levels of the kingdom, -- the highest potential of humanity where there is peace, order, and unity. Lower humanity falsely believes it has the higher qualities of real experience, real knowledge, and real understanding, thus it sees no need for effort to change.

The Gospels teach, above all, that the purpose for human life is to enter this higher state, rather than to try to reform the world. Jesus did not concern himself with worldly government or institutions, other than to recognize them for what they are, (Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's). Neither did he try to reform the religion of his time. He fulfilled it by showing what it was supposed to be. The kingdom is not of the world (levels 1, 2, and 3), but of a higher reality. The baptism of Christ is one of fire (spirit). The entire message of Christ through Jesus was about this higher potential that he called the kingdom of heaven.

Today, as in the time of Jesus, few people can accept this teaching, preferring to follow the broad highway of group membership and religious social identity. The inner teaching was not, and is not, a religion for the masses. It does not teach faith in the human world and its institutions, but in the transcendence of it for the few. It requires an internal severance from the "traditions of men", while living in the world, but not belonging to it (believing in its values). Esoteric Christianity can never become an organized, institutional church. It can exist for individuals within institutional religion, churches, but they must be able to see beyond the surface structure to the inner, higher meaning. The real Teaching is about individual, personal change to a higher state of being.